David Szondy reports: If you’ve ever sat down to a dish of Jell-O and wished that it was a touchscreen control , Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) has got your back. A team of scientists at the CMU’s Future Interfaces Group is working on a new technology called Electrick that uses a can of spray paint to turn almost any surface – including walls, toys, tools, furniture, steering wheels, and the popular gelatin dessert – into an interactive control.
Currently, touch controls are confined mostly to small, flat surfaces like smartphones or tablets. Larger versions are very expensive to build, and irregular ones are experimental and rely on complicated workarounds, like cameras and algorithms that are not very reliable and raise privacy issues.
CMU’s Electrick takes a different approach by using a common tech called electric field tomography. In this, an object is sprayed with an electrically conductive coating, including conductive plastics or carbon-loaded films. Electrodes are then hooked around the perimeter of the surface and a current is applied at one point while the voltage at the receiving electrodes is monitored. When touched, this alters the outgoing voltages and the system can deduce the location of the touch within about a centimeter … (read more)