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CMU-Modified Smart Watches Could Change The Face Of Health Tracking Apps

Marcio Jose Sanchez
In this Sept. 12, 2018, file photo the new Apple Watch 4 is on display at the Steve Jobs Theater during an event to announce new products in Cupertino, Calif.

A tweak to smart watches to have them identify dozens of movements could change the face of health tracking apps, according to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. 

A team at CMU's Human-Computer Interaction Institute made adjustments to on-the-market smart watches so they can identify 25 different, but similar, movements, including washing hands, cutting with scissors and using a computer mouse.

Future Interfaces Group director Chris Harrison said a health-focused app could connect with a tweaked smart watch to track activities like hand washing, coughing or sneezing. The watch can also detect typing, which over time can cause strain.

"Your smart watch can monitor how long you're typing, and perhaps every hour it prompts you saying hey, why don't you give your fingers a bit of a break," he explained.

Every smart watch has the capability to be tweaked as the researchers did in the study, according to Harrison. 

"So this could be little more than a software update to your smart watch, which would be very exciting," he said.

Harrison said the tweaked watches currently have a 95 percent success rate in identifying what movement is being made. When the program is perfected, it could be released to those who already have smart watches.