7 Incredible Things You Didn't Know Your Fingertips Could Do

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Our fingers don’t look like they’d be powerhouses, but they are capable of some incredible things. Thanks to innovative gesture control applications made possible by Intel® RealSense™ technology that tracks the movements of all 10 of your fingers, soon there will be a whole host of world-changing feats only your fingertips can pull off.

1. Talk Directly To Your Brain

Your fingertips are in constant, direct communication with your brain through your body’s somatosensory system, a massive network of nerve endings and specialized touch receptors in the skin. Four different types of receptors are constantly working to recognize such sensations as temperature, pressure, vibrations, texture, pain, and the position of the body in relation to its surroundings.

In fact, your brain and the sensors in your fingertips are so good at communicating with one another that they tend to cut out your consciousness completely. Your hands start to assume the necessary shape for a task—such as reaching for a glass of water—the very moment (or even a micromoment before) your brain initiates the action. To stick with the same example, as soon as you decide you’d like to take a sip of water, your hand takes on a generic cupping shape as you reach. By capitalizing on this brain-hand connection, gesture-control technology that tracks all 10 fingers’ movements like the Intel® RealSense™ 3D camera is able to make your computer more immersive and intuitive.

2. Feel Every Eyelash

Approximately 17,000 mechanoreceptors (receptors that respond to sensations of touch) reside in each human hand, with the majority clustered in your fingertips. Your fingertips’ ridges, which make up the loops and whorls seen in your fingerprints, maximize surface area for increased touch sensitivity. And these tiny receptors are incredibly discrete. They help your fingertips detect a feature as small as 0.2 mm, approximately the size of two human eyelashes, through static touch (a single stationary tap of your fingers). Your fingertips are even more sensitive to dynamic (or in-motion) touch. When you’re able to use such sensitive, finely tuned digits to direct the actions of your PC or tablet, you’ll find you have a whole new level of intuitive, precise control.

3. Interpret Vibrations

Dynamic touch is so much more discerning than static touch because your fingertips decipher tiny vibrations that are created when you rub them over a surface. Different structures create different vibrations based on the amount of friction and wrinkle width (which is how scientists gauge non-smooth textures) present on its surface. Just as your ear interprets sound vibrations in order to help you hear, your fingertips interpret motion vibrations in order to help you touch.

4. Move Without Muscles

You have no muscles in your fingers—at least, not the kind of muscles that help move your body; your fingers do have tiny arrector pili muscles, which can make the hairs on your fingers stand up straight. Instead, 17 muscles in your palm and 18 in your forearm, which are all attached to your finger bones by tendons, move your fingers. Essentially, your fingers function like complex marionettes.

5. Move In Harmony With One Another

Because of this complex network of muscle, tendon, and bone, it is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to move one finger by itself. There are 29 major and minor bones, 29 major joints, at least 123 named ligaments, 34 muscles, and 48 named nerves in your hand—and they all work in conjunction with one another to make your fingers functional. This poses a unique challenge for the future of motion-sense technology—that’s a lot of human hardware to keep track of! The newest wave of gesture control technology, led by the Intel® RealSense™ 3D camera, tracks all of the joints in your hands to get the most sophisticated read on your movements.

6. Communicate

Your fingers’ dexterity also supplies a vast well with possibilities for non-spoken language. And for the hearing impaired, hands and fingers provide one’s primary form of communication—in fact, according to the World Federation of the Deaf, 70 million deaf people (and many more hearing or deafblind people) use sign language as their first language or mother tongue.

While there are an estimated 300 distinct sign languages, many of them share the same linguistic roots, just as spoken languages do. Similarly, gestures and hand motions can also increase understanding among non-signing people. As such, some universally understood gestures, such as a thumbs up or peace sign, have been programmed into motion-sense technology so you can speak more directly with your computer.

7. Identify You

It’s common knowledge at this point that no two fingerprints are alike, and because of this they’ve been used as personal identifiers for millennia—records indicate that the Babylonian king Hammurabi had law officials take fingerprints of people who were arrested in the 1700s BCE. But modern technology has ushered in new possibilities for fingerprint recognition. We’re already using fingerprints to unlock our smartphones in lieu of a password, and last spring apps debuted with the ability to verify online purchases with your fingertips alone—no plastic needed.

You and your fingers make a great team—and Intel® RealSense™ technology, with features like gesture control, will let you use that relationship for intuitive computing control. Learn more here.