Low-cost vibration sensors can make any surface touch sensitive


Last month, I wrote about my frustration with Intel (s intc) for dawdling in bringing technology to market that can make any surface touch sensitive. Now, it looks like they have a competitor.

Researchers at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore are looking to commercialize a system that can turn surfaces like windows, wooden tables and whiteboards into interactive touchscreens. “It means in the future, you could play computer games or draw sketches on walls or windows since almost all surfaces can be made touch sensitive with our system,” NTU assistant professor Andy Khong said in a release Wednesday.

STATINA touch sensitive display

Unlike Intel’s system, which uses a camera to track touches, NTU’s STATINA relies on vibration sensors. Every time a light tap is applied to a surface, vibrations ripple out and hit the sensors. By calculating the difference in time between when the vibrations reach the sensors, the system pinpoints where the tap took place.

The sensors could work with an image projected on a surface or be attached to a non-touch-sensitive screen. STATINA could be a more affordable option than electronic white boards, which can cost upward of $1,000 and require specialized boards or pens. Existing whiteboards could be fitted with the sensors and drawn on with a regular marker or finger. The sensors could also be added to any existing TV or computer to make them touchscreen. This could inject new life into old personal electronics or be used to create interactive billboards and maps for the public.

Khong and his fellow researchers have tested the sensors on wood, aluminum, steel, glass and plastic. They are now working on making the system more compact and incorporating inexpensive web cameras, which would allow the sensors to track multiple touches at the same time. They recently received a $250,000 grant from the National Research Foundation to go toward producing a prototype that could be brought to market.


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