One Per Cent: ZeroTouch makes any screen touchable

A cheap way to turn a screen of any size into a touch-sensitive device. An ultra-precise game controller. A new way to manipulate images. These are just some of the possible uses for ZeroTouch, an interface unveiled this week at the Conference on Human Factors in Computing by researchers from Texas A&M University in College Station.

interactive touch-screen mall directory

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ZeroTouch senses an object’s position using a series of infrared LEDs and sensors mounted on the outside of what looks like an empty picture frame. The LEDs create a grid of invisible beams that crisscross the space inside the frame. A finger or other object that enters the frame blocks some of the beams, allowing the software monitoring the beams to track the movement of the object in real time.

The system can be used to turn any screen, including supersized televisions, into a touchscreen. Combined with a traditional touchscreen, ZeroTouch can also be used to increase the range of commands that a system can understand.

The Texas team demonstrated a ZeroTouch frame overlaid on a touchscreen that was controlled by a handheld stylus. Users could issue commands by tapping the stylus on the screen or by dragging and pinching with their fingers as they would on an iPhone. The team demonstrated how the combination of stylus and touch let users smoothly control a complex strategy game.

Team leader Andruid Kerne says he would like to rig up a series of ZeroTouch frames that would be big enough for someone to walk through. The system would be able to detect movements in three-dimensional space, which would have applications in game control. Current 3D controllers, like Microsoft’s Kinect, beam infrared light from a single point, which limits the accuracy of the tracking as well as the area over which users can be tracked.

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A multitouch screen

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One Per Cent: ZeroTouch makes any screen touchable.

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