Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Forget touch screens ...
Touch everything! Disney (the masters of bringing objects to life)
unveils new technology that can turn ANYTHING into a button



  • Any material - from bedknobs to broomsticks, and even water - can be become gesture-sensitive
  • Technology is similar to smartphone screens - but can create 3D 'map' of touch inputs
  • Sofas could become TV remotes, clothes could become mp3 controllers, doors could be 'password-protected' by gesture
Disney are normally associated with talking animals, princes and princesses, and objects which have come to life with a tough of magic.
Well, the magical wizards at Disneyland have made that last thing a reality, after unveiling a high-tech solution which can turn anything - from doorknobs to buckets of water - into interactive buttons.
The technology, called Touché, can be used in almost any object imaginable because all it needs is a single electrical wire embedded into an object, and then a wired or wireless connection back to a controller.
Once that has happened, your bed can tell if you are sitting or lying down, your doorknob can tell by your grasp if you want it to lock or not, or your sofa can pause your TV if you stand up - or you could turn the volume up and down by running a finger up your arm.
Touching a doorknob with this kind of gesture could set a 'Come In Quietly' message
Touching a doorknob with this kind of gesture could set a 'Come In Quietly' message

Not quite there yet: While we may not yet have the animate objects of Disney Classics such as Beauty and the Beast, this technology takes us a touch further
Not quite there yet: While we may not yet have the animate objects of Disney Classics such as
Beauty and the Beast, this technology takes us a touch further

Before getting into the behind-the-scenes technology, Disney gave some brief examples of how this could be used.

    Using a doorknob as an example, the research team say: 'Closing a door with a tight grasp could lock it, while closing it with a pinch might set a user’s away message, such as 'back in five minutes'.
    'A sequence of grasps could constitute a 'grasp password' that would only allow an authorised user to unlock the door.'
    Meanwhile, an interactive bed could keep the lights on if you are sat up reading a book, and turn the lights down gradually once you laid down to fall asleep.
    Even in a bucket of water, the system can tell the difference between three fingers submerged and other other gestures
    Even in a bucket of water, the system can tell the difference between three fingers submerged and other other gestures

    Different gestures: One touch versus hand submerged - the sensor can learn different positions and act accordingly
    Different gestures: One touch versus hand submerged - the sensor can learn different positions and act accordingly
    Different gestures: One touch versus hand submerged - the sensor can learn different positions and act accordingly

    The Disney technology can differentiate between different gestures - transforming everyday items like doorknobs into sensitive buttons
    The Disney technology can differentiate between different gestures - transforming everyday items like doorknobs into sensitive buttons
    A sofa could sense if you were in your regular sitting position for watching TV, and turn the box on, or it could notice you lie down and dim the lights.
    Or place the sensor in your clothes, and rubbing a finger up your arm could change the volume, or tapping your sleeve could change tracks.
    The technology uses capacitive sensors, almost exactly the same to what you may have on a smartphone, which can detect electrical impulses from a finger touch and translate that into action.
    However, the Disney Research team adapted their sensor to scan multiple electrical frequences and - by estimating the frequencies - can identify specific nuances to the touch, rather than just the simple 'on/off' response .
    The technology even works in water, so if you placed a hand in a bucket of water, the sensor could tell if you had just inserted one finger, or a whole hand, of if the hand was balled into a fist or held outstretched.
    The research was carried out by Munehiko Sato, Ivan Poupyrev and Chris Harrison at Disney Research in Pittsburgh.


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