Say you’re cooking dinner while reading a recipe on your laptop, tablet, or smartphone. You want to scroll down the page to see the next step, but your hands are tied up prepping food (or so messy that you don’t want to touch the screen and leave smudge marks all over it).

Researchers at the MIT Media Laboratory have a solution. It’s called NailO, and it’s a wearable Bluetooth trackpad that you can wear on your thumbnail. Just swipe the touch surface and it’ll send a command to scroll down the page.

You could also use it for other applications — switch tracks in a music app, pause video playback, swipe to answer an incoming phone call, or even enter text by tracing letters.


There are a few different methods for interacting with computers and mobile devices without actually touching them, ranging from voice controls to 3D gesture support that lets you wave your hands in front of the screen.

NailO is a relatively discrete solution since it doesn’t require you to speak out loud or gesticulate wildly. On the other hand, it does require you to wear a gadget on your thumb.

The NailO prototype features a microcontroller, Bluetooth radio and antenna, capacitive touch sensor, and a battery. To save power, the researchers are looking into ways to automatically turn the device off when it’s not in use and easily turn it on with an action such as touching the surface with a finger for two or three seconds to activate it.

The researchers are hoping to make the NailO even smaller in the future and point out that you can customize the look of the device by putting different designs on top of the touch surface, making the gadget look like nail art. Some people already put stickers on their fingernails, so why not put something useful underneath that sticker?

It’s not clear whether NailO or any related products will ever make it to market… especially if smartwatches really start to take off, since they offer another wearable surface that you might be able to use as a remote control for your phone or computer. But it’s always interesting to see new ideas for ways to interact with technology without using a mouse and keyboard.

via CNET

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8 replies on “NailO is a thumbnail-sized Bluetooth trackpad (that you wear on your thumbnail)”

  1. Better for cooking would be swiping in the air like in Minority Report. Or voice commands.

  2. i sort of miss the old IBM eraser trackpads…would love to see a tiny device with just that on it

  3. They’d better used a trackpoint, it is much more usefull for this.

    1. That is actually a good idea. Make it sealed so if it gets cookie dough on it you just wipe it off. instead of on your nail, put it on the side of your index finger so you can control it with your thumb.

  4. Maybe they can put a trackpad into a belt buckle. Or hey, how about a trackball you use in your pocket?

  5. Are people really going to want to wear something that makes them look as though they have a severe case of nail fungus?

  6. Not sure why on the thumb instead of a ring.
    Anyway, the better usage is to navigate a watch with a swipe based navigation OS.
    As some pointed out, using smartwatches occupies both your hands and that’s not ideal, a ring or this would free a hand (ofc if the OS is appropriate so no quite any OS).
    You could also have a smarter OS that’s somewhat self aware and it knows why you might swipe at certain times and locations (like turning on the lights or opening the door) and you just have to click or swipe for it to perform that task, without any need for more navigation through the OS.
    In any case a ring with the pad inside the palm makes more sense than this.
    Given that Android Wear is card based it should work rather well with such an accessory and Google Now is somewhat self aware so they should make it a product.
    Turning it on could even be mechanical they could make versions with some sensors and/or a speaker, alert LED, camera, mic and so on. Could also be used a panic button but not easy to figure out what action means panic mode, has to be easy but not easy enough for the user to accidentally set it off (SOS in Morse code maybe but that takes too long), Ofc the first gen should be kept simple and cheap.

    Edit: ROFL took a look at the Apple Watch navigation to make sure something like this wouldn’t fit. The navigation there was made by an insane person, it’s unbelievable what they did on a device where simplicity is fundamental.

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