Microsoft has been awarded a patent for a “wearable computer having a skin-stimulating interface,” which appears to be fancy talk for a piece of clothi that will give you a mild electrical stimulus when you get an email or text message.
“Techniques are described herein that are capable of providing electrical stimuli to skin of a user to convey information to the user. For instance, the electrical stimuli may inform the user of an event, a condition, etc.,” says the patent’s abstract.
The basic idea, per that patent, is that it’s increasingly rude in modern society to take your phone out and check it incessantly. Meanwhile, you don’t always feel the vibrations coming from your phone. And it’s not always socially acceptable to wear, say, Google Glass, which is named specifically in the patent.
And so, Microsoft presents its idea for a sensor that gives you a little electrical buzz when you get a text, making it hard to miss no matter the situation. Several times in the patent filing, Microsoft mentions incorporating that sensor into clothing. In the patent’s diagrams, they include a shoe and a t-shirt as examples:
The potential here isn’t limited to text message alerts, either: “The electrical stimuli may inform the user of a condition of clothing that is worn by the user. The electrical stimuli may inform the user that a physical positioning of the user is to be changed.”
Reading between the lines, that means that it’s possible that the sensor could tell you when the shirt is starting to wear out. It could also let you know when it’s time to stand, if you’ve been sitting improperly — or maybe use mild electric shocks to help you improve your golf swing.
The patent, first noticed by Twitter user “h0x0d,” was first filed in February of 2014, and published today. As usual with any patent like this, there’s no guarantee that this technology will ever make it into a product, but it shows Microsoft has at least considered it.
Still, it’s an idea that seems to be propagating through the industry: Google and Levi’s are teaming up to make smart pants that can control your phone, with the same idea of saving you from a social faux pas.