The limits of battery life means that dealing with cords and cables—instead of going completely wireless—is still our reality for at least a few more years. So researchers at MIT figure we should just start using them to our advantage as smart remotes and controllers, instead of just a means to transfer power and data.

The Tangible Media Group at MIT's Media Lab has come up with a concept it calls Cord UIs which could be considered 'smart' cables because of their added functionality. For example, kinking a power cord could automatically stop power flowing, like water in a hose. Or tying a knot in the cord between a lamp and an outlet would automatically dim the bulb. The most exciting application sees the smart cables used with headphones, letting music be temporarily paused with a simple pinch anywhere along the cord, or more complex gestures triggering other commands.

To facilitate the added functionality, the prototype cables are packed full of more than just wires. There's also piezo copolymer cables hidden away inside which are able to generate currents and signals as the cables are pinched, which are then translated into commands. So in their current form the Cord UIs cables are a little on the chunky side. But even if there's no room to streamline their design, the added functionality of using your entire headphone cord as a remote sounds like it would totally be worth the extra thickness. [Cord UIs via PSFK]

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