When it comes to digital gadgets, most of us are pros at swiping and typing on touchscreen devices. But what if you could turn every surface around you into a touch screen? Computer and mechanical engineers at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. are turning that idea into a reality.
“For example what if I could make my kitchen countertop at home a touch display where I could check the weather updates,” said Niklas Elmqvist, a computer engineer at Purdue University.
The new touch-activated system projects a touchscreen surface onto walls and other surfaces – sensing touch and hand gestures from multiple users.
“As soon as we can make the surfaces that we work with larger, more people can just reach in and start touching and working together,” said Elmqvist.
First, a computer maps out your hand. Then, using a Kinect camera, it determines the position of your hand and which fingers are pressing on a surface. Different people can use it at the same time and it can tell the difference between the two different hands. The system can pick up 16 different hand gestures – the equivalent of having a mouse with 16 buttons – which could leave room for more complex commands.
The system is 98% accurate in recognizing hand gestures and carrying out correct commands.
“In some ways our system can change how people interact with each other and how they work on things like on a table-like surface,” said Karthik Ramani, a mechanical engineer at Purdue University.
Karin Heineman is the executive producer of Inside Science TV. She has produced over 600 video news segments on science, technology, engineering and math in the past 13 years for Inside Science TV and its predecessor, Discoveries and Breakthroughs Inside Science.
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