A Touchscreen Anywhere You Want It

Fans of the Tom Cruise film Minority Report will be interested in a new interface technology under development by researchers at Carnegie Mellon and Microsoft Research. The new wearable system, called OmniTouch, can turn any surface into a touchscreen, in much the same way characters in the 2002 film could manipulate data using hand gestures.

OmniTouch combines a laser-based pico projector and depth-sensing camera (a prototype from PrimeSense), similar to the Kinect camera used for the Xbox 360. The system detects the proximity of the user’s finger to the surface to determine when a “touch” is actually occurring.

(For another look at how human-computer interfaces are evolving, see our coverage in Desktop Engineering here.)

OmniTouch was developed by Chris Harrison, a Ph.D. student in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, and a Microsoft Research Ph.D. Fellow, along with Andy Wilson, principal researcher at Microsoft Research, and Hrvoje Benko, also of Microsoft Research.

Microsoft has created a number of similar technologies, including Surface (a multi-touch technology that allowed users to manipulate content using gesture recognition), and LightSpace, which allowed users to project a display interface across an entire room. See how the Kinect camera is being used to interact with 3D digital objects in our previous HoloDesk blog post here.

The project was presented during UIST 2012, the Association for Computing Machinery’s annual symposium on user interface software and technology earlier this month.

OmniTouch is also similar to a system developed by students at the MIT Media Lab — called SixthSense — that used an off-the-shelf digital projector and webcam to project images on to any surface and follow users gestures. How will design engineers use this type of user interface in the future?

You can see an OmniTouch demo video below:

Source: Microsoft Research

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