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