Why should touch interfaces be limited to phones and computers? A team from Disney Research and Carnegie-Mellon University has developed a gestural-based touch interface that could be used for virtually any surface -- doorknobs, tables, even parts of your body.
The range of applications for the technology, called Touche, is potentially huge. A doorknob could "know" if it should lock or not depending on how it is grasped. A stereo system that could mute itself if a single finger is brought to a person's lips, or a sofa could turn the TV on or off, depending on whether someone is sitting on the sofa.
Swept Frequency Capacitive Sensing
The research is being presented Monday in a paper at the Conference on Human Factors in Computering Systems in Austin, Texas.
Touchscreens frequently use capacitive touch sensing, but they only sense at one frequency. Touche, on the other hand, uses its Swept Frequency Capacitive Sensing (SFCS) system to detect capacitive signals throughout a range of frequencies, allowing a much wider range of gestures.
On a doorknob, for instance, the system can detect the difference between a single finger touch, two fingers, a pinch, or a circular grasp. A doorknob could be programmed to lock or unlock, generate a voice message for the next user, turn off lights in the house, or other functions, all depending on the type of touch it has received from a user's hand.
The technology could also dramatically transform touchscreens. The researchers have created a demonstration screen that has far more input recognition than is currently available, allowing a hand, for instance, to indicate a mouse right-click or copy/paste functions, simply by the hand configuration.
Al Hilwa, director of application development at IDC, said there was "no doubt" that this kind of system could have many uses. He added that "we're definitely headed in that direction, where it's possible" to put computer interaction, with a more natural interface, into "virtually everything."
But, he noted, all of those touches on all of those surfaces will result in even more data about every person -- and many more possibilities for privacy invasion.
A capacitive touchscreen uses a coating with a transparent conductor that tracks the point of contact. Touche's emphasis on tracking a range of frequencies means that, for instance, the system can detect which body part is involved, since different human tissues generate different frequencies. (continued...)
Simon Lee (Locassa):
Posted: 2012-05-15 @ 1:51am PT
This is really interesting tech, I can't wait for a fully automated home. The X10 system which has been around for years has done wonders for the industry (along with several others) but the requirement to have a central keypad to control it is now something we can eliminate.
My concern, as a user and coming as the owner of a software development firm, is that of security. All software has issues, some more than others, and I am still not 100% comfortable with the notion that a door would lock itself. The keyless entry / security on modern cars is a good example, the brochure states you walk away and it locks the car, but if you go back to check it *did* lock it, then you need to leave your key behind, otherwise the car unlocks itself again.... a humorous notion but something that becomes even more prevalent when there is no external stimuli to perform the connection and execution of locking for example.