Researchers at Osaka University in Japan have successfully demonstrated a new hands-free headset which can not only deliver music but control a host of devices, literally with a wink of your eye.

The Mimi Switch incorporates a set of tiny infrared sensors, connected to a microcomputer, which detect equally tiny movements inside the ear canal that result from specific facial expressions.


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“You will be able to turn on room lights or swing your washing machine into action with a quick twitch of your mouth,” inventor Kazuhiro Taniguchi told news agency AFP. “An iPod can start or stop music when the wearer sticks his tongue out, like in the famous Einstein picture. If he opens his eyes wide, the machine skips to the next tune. A wink with the right eye makes it go back.”

In fact, the Mimi Switch is completely programmable, allowing any of a long list of facial expressions to control virtually any device that accepts digital control inputs.

Taniguchi also notes that the Mimi Switch can record expression data and learn about a specific user’s twitches and facial idiosyncrasies.

While there’s an almost inexhaustible list of things the Mimi could do in the consumer electronics realm, Taniguchi is more interested in higher-level applications for his invention.

Among other assistive uses, Taniguchi sees the Mimi being employed as a multi-role remote control for the elderly or physically challenged. He even sees medical diagnostic applications for the Mimi, which can detect very small changes in the tissues and blood vessels of the ear canal.

Taniguchi says he expects it will be at least three years before Mimi technology starts to show up in retail products.

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