How you control touchscreen devices like smartphones could very soon be how you control everyday objects, even liquids.
The screen on a touchscreen device turns ‘on’ and ‘off’ with capacitive sensing technology; touchscreens are coated with a conductor that carries an electrical signal, when touched, the electrical signal changes and the screen responds. Capacitive sensing is binary- a touchscreen knows if it has been touched (and responds) or if it hasn’t been touched (and doesn’t respond), but a touchscreen doesn’t know how it has been touched.
What if a touchscreen could know how it had been touched? Could different types of touch on a touchscreen elicit different responses?
It’s a reality researchers at Disney Research in Pittsburgh, PA are exploring after creating a new type of touch sensor, Touché. Touché uses a similar type of capacitive sensing currently found in touchscreens, but instead of only being able to detect ‘touch’ or ‘no touch,’ Touché can easily determine multiple types of touch, which can then signal different responses:
This allows to significantly enhances touch interaction in a broad range of applications, from enhancing conventional touchscreens to designing interaction scenarios for unique use contexts and materials. For example, in our explorations we added complex touch and gesture sensitivity not only to computing devices and everyday objects, but also to the human body and liquids. Importantly, instrumenting objects and material with touch sensitivity is easy and straightforward: a single wire is sufficient to make objects and environments touch and gesture sensitive.
Everyday objects, once connected to a sensor controller, become multi-responsive touch devices- sit on a sofa and the TV turns on, recline in the sofa, and the lights dim. Close a door with one finger on the doorknob, and a message displays on the door, ‘back in 5 minutes,’ close a door with two fingers on a doorknob, and a message displays on the door, ‘gone for the day’ while the door locks. Aquarium touch zones that allow visitors to touch sea animals with one finger could sound an alarm when the water senses a hand is fully submerged.
Chris Harrison, a collaborator on the project from Carnegie Mellon’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute, on the potential of Touché:
Devices keep getting smaller and increasingly are embedded throughout the environment, which has made it necessary for us to find ways to control or interact with them, and that is where Touché could really shine.
Watch the Disney researchers explain Touché: