Scientists in Germany are exploring new ways of controlling smartphones with the use of facial expressions.

Gestures such as nodding, smiling and winking could soon solve the problem of trying to operate your touchscreen device with gloves on.

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Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany have developed the “EarFS”, a device which measures “muscular currents and distortions of the ear canal” caused by facial movements.

The EarFS in action (Fraunhofer IGD)

Scientists claim the special ear plug detects “even the smallest movements” on the face.

To prevent interference to the ear plug from other bodily movements, such as walking, an additional sensor was added to the device to “record signals coming from the outside”.

The device will allow “microinteractions” with the phone, such as answering and rejecting calls, and turning on music. Yet, its possibilities don’t end there.

The innovation could eventually allow smartphones to detect when its user is tired when driving, and could automatically mute the phone if users are in concentration mode.

Man using an iPhone (Lauren Hurley/PA)

It could also revolutionise the way that people with locked-in syndrome communicate and operate computers through eye movements.

Denys Matthies, scientist at the Fraunhofer IGD, said: “With the technology, we can also read activities at other parts of the body and separate them from external signals.

“This opens up further possibilities for us, including the complementary operation of machines in Industry 4.0.”

Developers also considered the possibility of using speech to communicate with smartphones. However, they concluded the option would be constrained by environmental noise as well as social acceptance.

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