Wearable technology has gotten plenty of attention this year, but the focus tends to be on glasses and especially watches. One researcher has developed a more subtle form of wearable technology—smart hair extensions called Hairware. The inventor, Katia Vega of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, previously created conductive eye makeup that she demonstrated by controlling a drone with a simple wink. She unveiled her newest beauty technology earlier this month at IUI 2015, a user interface conference in Atlanta, Georgia, where she won the award for best tech demo. To demonstrate how the extensions could be used as an input device for triggering smartphone apps, show attendees used the hair to take selfies.
Hairware acts as a capacitive touch sensor that detects touch variations, and over time an algorithm recognizes users intentions. The device was made by weaving conductive metalized hair filaments into natural-looking hair extensions. A microcontroller and Bluetooth radio in a hairclip provide the system’s intelligence and conductivity. When a user casually strokes the hair extension on the top, middle, or tip, the sensor differentiates the value and sends a message to the microcontroller.
Vega hopes to commercialize the technology so that it can be used for personal security, such hidden emergency alert systems for women to wear. Hairware could also be used by intelligence agencies—in the future CIA agents could secretly communicate by touching their hair.