Invisible Touch Screens

Technology that takes beams of light and turns any flat space into a touchscreen.
Marsha Lewis, Contributing Producer

(Inside Science TV)  – You can touch it with your fingers, with a pen or just come close to touching it.

Computer scientists and engineers at Texas A&M University in College Station have created a virtual air touchpad computer interface. In other words: A touchscreen that requires no touch.

“ZeroTouch is a visual hull sensing technology. It could sense fingers and hands. It could sense objects, too," said Andruid Kerne, a computer scientist at Texas A&M.

ZeroTouch uses crisscrossing beams of invisible light. When something disturbs the path of the light,   the system recognizes it as a touch. It can transform any computer monitor or flat space into a touch screen.

It can be mounted on a desktop, over a computer screen or just hang in the air. ZeroTouch allows users to draw or paint pictures in midair, zoom in or out on very large screens, drag text and pictures around, and control and move 3-D objects.

The applications could help professionals like architects, artists, fashion designers and surgeons map out their work. It could also change the way gamers play video games.

One big advantage to ZeroTouch is the price. The research prototype was made using commercially available sensors usually found in TV remote controls. The frame, which wasn't designed for mass production, costs about $450 to construct.

“You’ll be able to take your standard monitor that you have at home and turn it into a multi-touch monitor" at a relatively low cost, said William Hamilton, a Ph.D. student in computer science at Texas A&M.

It's a technology that could make your work more efficient and your playtime more fun.

Get Inside The Science:

Zero Touch – A New Multifinger Sensing Technology

Interface Ecology Lab at Texas A&M University

Andruid Kerne, Texas A&M University

Author Bio & Story Archive

Marsha Lewis is a freelance producer based in California.  She has won 11 National Telly Awards and nine Regional Emmy Awards for her work in local and national syndicated news.

I’ve dedicated my time to reporting and producing stories focused on medical, science and technology. I created a nationally award winning series dedicated to promoting women and their great accomplishments.  Now I’ve taken that expertise outside the traditional TV news format and broadened the viewership to people around the world.