Is your smartphone screen too tiny for your fingers? FingerIO lets you draw on other stuff instead...

The various screens in our lives may be getting thinner and tinier by the minute, but our fingers will probably always remain steadfastly bound to their genetically predetermined shape and size, which is a bit of a bummer if you love smart tech. But thanks to FingerIO, there could be an alternative way for our fingers to interact with our intricate screens.

FingerIO is a project from the University of Washington that uses sonar to track and interpret fine-grain finger movements on the minuscule screens of our smartwatches and smartphones. With FingerIO, anyone can create shapes with their fingertips on a tabletop, paper, their arm, and even in mid-air, and see their gestures mimicked on the screen of their nearby device.

FingerIO works by essentially turning your device into an active sonar system. It does this using the device’s own microphone and speakers to emit and inaudible sound wave. The signal from your device then bounces off your finger, and the “echoes” are recorded by the device’s microphones and used to calculate the finger’s location.

The cool thing is that since sound waves travel through fabric and don’t need a clear line of sight, you can use FingerIO even if your phone’s in your pocket, or your watch is hidden under your jacket sleeve.

Sadly, us clown-fingered folk will have to wait in line to us FingerIO, because there are no solid plans to bring it into production just. Its team of researchers will be presenting their paper in May at the Association for Computing Machinery’s CHI 2016 conference in California. You can read more about FingerIO here.