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Science
09 May 2017

Researchers find way to make any object a touchscreen

Turn any object into a touchscreen!

Researchers at the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, have come up with a new technique with which touch controls can be added to any object regardless of its shape and material.

While touchscreens today mostly come on flat surfaces made of glass, this new technique, dubbed "Electrick", could change the way we use touch controls.

In context

Turn any object into a touchscreen!

The first of its kind

"For the first time, we've been able to take a can of spray paint and put a touch screen on almost anything," said Chris Harrison, an assistant professor at the Human-Computer Interaction Institute.

How does "Electrick" work?

"Electrick"

How does "Electrick" work?

"Electrick" was conceptualized and created by Yang Zhang, a Ph.D student at the Carnegie Mellon University.

It uses a technique called "electric field tomography".

Using conductive spray paint, "Electrick" can convert any object - plastic, wood, Jell-O, drywall, and even Play-Doh - into a touch sensitive surface which uses a software algorithm to read the press of a finger.

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Localizing the shunting effect

"Like many touchscreens, Electrick relies on the shunting effect...By attaching multiple electrodes to the periphery of an object or conductive coating, Zhang and his colleagues showed they could localize where and when such shunting occurs," the official publication said.

Uses

Potential uses for "Electrick"

Researchers from the Future Interfaces Group used "Electrick" to demonstrate a few uses for the idea.

These include a conductive case for smartphones which can be used to launch different apps.

Other uses include making a touchscreen on a guitar which can be used to process effects.

Even more potential uses include interactive touchscreen walls, desks that can be used as keyboards etc.

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