Now that the technology is advancing at a much more rapid pace, the fact that we still need to type on small touchscreens tells us that something more is due soon. Microsoft and Carnegie Mellon University have developed a new graphical user interface system that can make any surface work as a touchscreen.
The new system is named OmniTouch and it allows users to interact with a mobile device by treating almost any surface as a touchscreen. The system uses a pico projector to show the user interface on a surface — a wall, leg, arm, table — whatever, and uses a depth sensor just like Microsoft Kinect to track what your fingers are doing, including typing and tapping the touchscreen.
The software of OmniTouch also supports multi-touch input and the best part is that it can really figure out whether the finger is just hovering somewhere or if the user is actually clicking on something. The OmniTouch system is mounted on the shoulder and the screen can be seamlessly moved from one surface to another.
“It’s conceivable that anything you can do on today’s mobile devices, you will be able to do on your hand using OmniTouch,” said Chris Harrison, a Ph.D. student in Carnegie Mellon’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute. The palm of the hand could be used as a phone keypad, or as a tablet for jotting down brief notes. Maps projected onto a wall could be panned and zoomed with the same finger motions that work with a conventional multitouch screen.
“With OmniTouch, we wanted to capitalize on the tremendous surface area the real world provides,” said Benko, a researcher in Microsoft Research’s Adaptive Systems and Interaction group. “We see this work as an evolutionary step in a larger effort at Microsoft Research to investigate the unconventional use of touch and gesture in devices to extend our vision of ubiquitous computing even further.”
The new OmniTouch system is capable of recognizing multi touch, and the researchers have shown the system responds well even with two points of contact ( two fingers). The way this system senses the motion of your finger is plain amazing because it registers the finger equivalent of cursor control as well, something we don’t have in touchscreens so far.