It looks like we’re one step closer to becoming cyborgs with little chips implanted in our skulls. Researchers in Japan are currently developing the “Earclip wearable PC,” a tiny computer that clips onto your ear. It weighs all of 17-grams (0.59 ounces), but manages to house a GPS, compass, gyro-sensor, battery, barometer, speaker and microphone, and its functions are controlled by your facial expressions: the blink of an eye, a raise of an eyebrow, a click of the tongue. As inconspicuous as a hearing aid, it’s less dorky-looking than Google Glass.
“We have made this with the basic idea that people will wear it in the same way they wear earrings,” creator Kazuhiro Taniguchi, an engineer at Hiroshima City University, told AFP in a recent interview.
This little ear computer can be connected to an iPhone, iPod, or other mobile device. Infrared sensors monitor the tiny movements inside your ear that occur when you move your face, so you might be able to pause a song by scrunching your nose, Samantha Stevens-style, for example, or scroll through a menu by winking. This frees up users’ hands entirely–meaning the device could help not just busy workaholics, but also the disabled, and hands-on professionals like astronauts and rock-climbers. It can function as a hearing aid, and a built-in accelerometer can track dangerous falls, sending a text alert to caregivers or calling 911 with GPS data. Taniguchi calls it a “third hand.”
The device’s curvy design, which hooks around the outside of the ear, was inspired by traditional Japanese flower arrangements, called Ikebana.
Don’t worry, sneezing won’t make it go haywire: it can distinguish a sneeze from, say, a nose wrinkle, and actually counts how often you sneeze, using the data to alert you to the onset of sickness.
The device might be less geeky-looking than Google Glass, but clicking your tongue or wiggling your nose at the sky isn’t exactly going to make you look like a sane person. Plus, it could spawn a whole new kind of social awkwardness: What if you think that dude across the bar is winking at you but he’s actually just pressing “pause” on his earclip? That said, we’ve gotten used to Bluetoothed people on the street appearing to talk to themselves, so maybe these new facial tics will grow on us, too.
The design is supposed to be completed by Christmas 2015, and it’s slated to be commercialized by April 2016–a futuristic stocking-stuffer that will bring us even closer to the world of Spike Jonze’s Her, in which protagonist Theodore Twombly wears an in-ear computer strikingly similar to this little guy.