Microsoft aims to turn any wall into an interactive surface

By Tom Warren, on 6th May 11 12:09 pm with 13 Comments

Microsoft's previous Touch Wall concept

Microsoft is aiming to turn any wall into a fully interactive surface.

Researchers at Microsoft and the University of Washington have discovered a method to use ambient electromagnetic radiation and turn any wall in a building into a touch-sensitive surface. Electromagnetic radiation is generated in several ways but Microsoft aims to use the fields generated by power lines to Wi-Fi transmitters.

The future technology may allow TVs and stereos to be controlled from anywhere in a building. House owners could also switch off lights, change their heating settings and control their security systems using the technology. Technology Review reports that researchers have demonstrated only that a body can turn electromagnetic noise into a usable signal for gesture-based interfaces. When humans touch walls with electrical wiring behind them, they become an antenna that tunes the background radiation. The effect is a unique electrical signal that can be interpreted by a device in contact with or close by the body.

Microsoft hopes to channel the technology to allow people to touch spots on walls and create gestures to control TV volume, light settings and other residential devices. The company has tested the technology with wrist bracelets. “With Nintendo Wii and Microsoft’s Kinect, people are starting to realize that these gesture interfaces can be quite compelling and useful,” said Thad Starner, professor in Georgia Tech’s College of Computing. “This is the sort of paper that says here is a new direction, an interesting idea; now can we refine it and make it better over time.”

Further reading: MIT Technology Review

  • http://twitter.com/mcakins McAkins Online

    Use The Force my Son!! The Force is strong with the boy!

  • Benjy91

    Wow, this looks amazing.

  • Pat

    Awesome Microsoft :)

  • Anonymous

    From what I have read tablets will dominate the future not walls…

    • http://twitter.com/oolong2 oolong2

      That’s because most everything that bloggers write about is based on current fads and flavor of the week.

      All surfaces will dominate the future… walls, tables, counter tops, windows, phones, laptops, mirrors. Tablets are just *one* surface that currently doesn’t allow people do do much more than play angry birds, browse, and tweet.

    • http://twitter.com/oolong2 oolong2

      That’s because most everything that bloggers write about is based on current fads and flavor of the week.

      All surfaces will dominate the future… walls, tables, counter tops, windows, phones, laptops, mirrors. Tablets are just *one* surface that currently doesn’t allow people do do much more than play angry birds, browse, and tweet.

  • Myisdying

    Maybe they should set their sights on something a little less ambitious – like delivering updates to Windows phones without bricking them or keeping the marketplace online.

    Hey, notice they lost another distinguised engineer today? How many is that now in just the past two years?

    • Mister Twister

      I hope you can somehow understand that this is Microsoft research, they don’t have anything to do with windows phone updates, and also the WP7s that were bricked were Samsung’s fault not Microsofts.

  • OMG55

    Maybe you should be patient like any intelligent person who understands that there will be bumps when new devices/technology is implemented and learn not to hack equipment when a clear warning was given. Call your Cellular provider and phone manufacturer.

  • Anonymous

    Electricity providers approve!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mitch-Foster/100000527225418 Mitch Foster

    Parlor Walls- Fahrenheit 451

  • London Lex

    Windows in your Wall… wonder if there’ll be trademark issues!!

  • http://twitter.com/Daniel_H_UK Daniel Hartshorn

    This looks promising and could change the face of technology,,,, well done microsoft thinking out of the box i hope this will become a reality in the future