Science

Now, turn any surface into touchscreen with a spray paint

Press Trust of India Washington | Updated on January 11, 2018 Published on May 09, 2017

Scientists have developed a new technology that can turn any surface — including walls, furniture and steering wheels — into a touchscreen using tools as simple as a can of spray paint.

The “trick” is to apply electrically-conductive coatings or materials to objects or surfaces, or to craft objects using conductive materials, researchers said. By attaching a series of electrodes to the conductive materials, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, US, showed they could use a well-known technique called electric field tomography to sense the position of a finger touch. “For the first time, we have been able to take a can of spray paint and put a touch screen on almost anything,” said Chris Harrison, assistant professor at Carnegie’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII).

Until now, large touch surfaces have been expensive and irregularly shaped, or have been largely available only in research labs.

With the new technology dubbed Electrick, conductive touch surfaces can be created by applying conductive paints, bulk plastics or carbon-loaded films among other materials. The trade-off, in comparison to other touch input devices, is accuracy, researchers said.

The technology was used to make an interactive smartphone case — opening applications such as a camera based on how the user holds the phone — and a game controller that can change the position and combinations of buttons and sliders based on the game being played or the player’s preferences.

Published on May 09, 2017
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