Disney made a smartwatch that tells you what you're touching

There's smart, then there's scary smart

Watches have got a lot smarter in the last couple of years. They play music, show calendars, track your heart rate, and even let you make calls if you don't mind looking slightly ridiculous.

But Disney might have just put Apple to shame, with a new wearable that can detect which objects you're interacting with.

The tech is a Disney invention called EM-Sense, and it works by detecting the tiny electromagnetic signals that are conducted by the human body when touching an electromechanical object.

Those signals can be detected and classified in real time, so if you touch your phone screen or stand on a set of scales, for example, it will know.

A truly smart watch

That's fascinating enough in itself, but as Disney's demo video shows it also opens up new functionality for your smartwatch - which is where those sensors become really useful.

For example, when a user starts brushing their teeth EM-Sense detects this and a timer starts on their watch, so they know how long to brush for. Standing on an electronic scale meanwhile causes data to be captured and transferred to the screen of the watch.

It can get even smarter though, as by detecting patterns of appliance touches it can guess what you're doing. For example, touch a fridge, followed by a stove in the morning and it might assume you're making breakfast and offer to put the news on.

In another example the wearer opens their office door, triggering work-related reminders. When they leave at the end of the day and touch the door again it then triggers reminders for things to do on the way home, like buying milk.

Another clever use for it is to bypass passwords. Touch your laptop while wearing the EM-Sense equipped watch and, because the laptop knows that a user is touching it and the watch knows who that user is, you could unlock it automatically.

It's exciting stuff and while we suspect it might not yet be quite as slick an experience as the video suggests, if and when it gets to that point it could be a real game changer.

James Rogerson

James is a freelance phones, tablets and wearables writer and sub-editor at TechRadar. He has a love for everything ‘smart’, from watches to lights, and can often be found arguing with AI assistants or drowning in the latest apps. James also contributes to 3G.co.uk, 4G.co.uk and 5G.co.uk and has written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV.