Microsoft is developing a new technology in its research labs that will allow users to touch any surface as if it were a touch screen.
The technology is called OmniTouch and was born in Microsoft’s Research labs. The software giant has created a prototype unit that is wearable and projects images onto various surfaces. The interactions can take place on the go with no calibration required. Imagine holding up your hand and dialling a number in the palm of your hand, that’s how OmniTouch works. ”We wanted to capitalize on the tremendous surface area the real world provides,” explains Hrvoje Benko, of the Natural Interaction Research group. “The surface area of one hand alone exceeds that of typical smart phones. Tables are an order of magnitude larger than a tablet computer. If we could appropriate these ad hoc surfaces in an on-demand way, we could deliver all of the benefits of mobility while expanding the user’s interactive capability.”
The custom camera works in a similar way to Microsoft’s Kinect system but has been modified to work at short range. A user simply carries the camera on their person and the system will project user interfaces onto various surfaces. “We wanted the ability to use any surface,” Benko says. “Let the user define the area of where they want the interface to be, and have the system do its best to track it frame to frame. This creates a highly flexible, on-demand user interface. You can tap on your hand or drag your interface out to specify the top left and bottom right border. All this stems from the main idea that if everything around you is a potential interface, then the first action has to be defining an interface area.”
Microsoft is demonstrating the technology as part of its presentation during UIST 2011, the Association for Computing Machinery’s 24th Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology, being held Oct. 16-19 in Santa Barbara, California.