EarBuddy: Enabling On-Face Interaction via Wireless Earbuds

Xuhai Xu, Haitian Shi, Xin Yi, Wenjia Liu, Yukang Yan, Yuanchun Shi, Alex Mariakakis, Jennifer Mankoff, Anind Dey
EarBuddy leverages the microphone embedded in wireless earbuds to recognize gestures on the face or around the ears.


Past research regarding on-body interaction typically requires custom sensors, limiting their scalability and generalizability. We propose EarBuddy, a real-time system that leverages the microphone in commercial wireless earbuds to detect tapping and sliding gestures near the face and ears. We develop a design space to generate 27 valid gestures and conducted a user study (N=16) to select the eight gestures that were optimal for both human preference and microphone detectability. We collected a dataset on those eight gestures (N=20) and trained deep learning models for gesture detection and classification. Our optimized classifier achieved an accuracy of 95.3%. Finally, we conducted a user study (N=12) to evaluate EarBuddy’s usability. Our results show that EarBuddy can facilitate novel interaction and that users feel very positively about the system. EarBuddy provides a new eyes-free, socially acceptable input method that is compatible with commercial wireless earbuds and has the potential for scalability and generalizability.