You might have heard of wearable gadgets – but how about chewable technology?
University of Auckland researchers have been pioneering a device which would allow the user to answer a phone call simply by biting down on it.
ChewIt, developed by the Auckland Bioengineering Institute's Augmented Human Lab team, is a tiny piece of technology encased in a flexible, custom-made printed circuit board.
By being operated from within your mouth, it enables discreet and hands-free interaction with your phone, computer or smartwatch.
It was developed by Associate Professor Suranga Nanayakkara, who made international headlines in recent years with the FingerReader, a prototype device worn on the finger that allows users to point at words, which is then translated to voice.
Along with ChewIt, Nanayakkara and his team have developed GymSoles, a pressure-sensitive device that vibrates, giving users feedback to help them maintain the correct body posture.
GymSoles was tested and shown to be effective on people performing certain exercise such as squats and dead-lifts, to help them maintain the correct centre of pressure, but they could be used to improve posture in myriad contexts.
Nanayakkara, who moved to New Zealand from Singapore last year, aimed to address what he saw as a mismatch current technology and innate human behaviour.
His research focused on pioneering innovations that were more responsive to human instinct rather than obliging us to adjust to the technology's requirements.
"We want to design and develop systems that can understand the user rather than us having to tell the technology what to do every time – technologies that can understand us much better than technology currently does."
He defined such technologies as "assistive augmentation".
"It's when the system understands the abilities, behaviour and emotions of the user. And when the system is unobtrusive and integrated with our body or our behaviour.
"And it should be about strengthening and extending the physical and sensorial abilities of the user, allowing them to do what they couldn't do before.
"When you meet all three measures, that's assisted augmentation."