Disney's 'mind-blowing' touch-sensing technology

A new, more intuitive technology could soon make all kinds of surfaces, like human skin and water, responsive to complicated gestures.

By TheWeek.com May 8, 2012 12:33PM

Scientists at Disney Research -- yes, that Disney (DIS) -- have developed a proprietary touch-sensing technology called Touché, which could effectively give everyday objects and substances -- like doorknobs, walls, or even liquid -- advanced touchscreen controls, the basic version of which you typically find on smartphones and tablets. But Touché could give different surfaces the capacity to detect gestures way more complicated than a swipe. The invention is being presented on Monday in Austin, Texas, at the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, and has already received a few highly coveted awards.


Here, a brief guide to the "mind-blowing" breakthrough.


How does the touch technology work?
Typical touchscreens accept commands using a single electrical frequency, which helps the screen to differentiate between touching or not touching. Touché is different in that it can read complicated configurations over a much wider range of frequencies, so that it can even detect gestures. Different types of touches register distinct electrical signatures, which Disney refers to as a "capacitive profile," says Sebastian Anthony at Extreme Tech. Touching a doorknob with one finger creates a different capacitive profile than gripping it with your whole hand, for example.


And it can even be used on liquid?
Touché only requires a single electrode to function, "which opens the application to any object that can conduct electricity," says John Koetsier at VentureBeat -- and that includes electricity-conducting surfaces like furniture, human skin and even tubs full of water (watch a demo at TheWeek.com).

What can Touché be used for?
Imagine a desk that's "all touch-sensitive," says VentureBeat's Koetsier: Using your fingers on a tablet screen might be less precise than a mouse or stylus, but "give your hands the entire surface of your desk to work on, and the results might be beyond our current imagination." Or imagine a couch that automatically flicks on the TV when you sit down, or a doorknob that locks when you tap it. Also consider a smart swimming pool that "detects a young child who can't swim," says Extreme Tech's Anthony. The "possibilities of Touché are almost endless, and really rather exciting." 


Sources: Extreme TechGizmodoVentureBeatThe Verge

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Tags: DIS
May 8, 2012 4:07PM
All the scientist and brainaics in the world, and figures Disney comes up with this. Imagine the price tag they are going to put on it!
May 8, 2012 7:10PM
This is simply the future of an already implemented technology.  Why do people have to be negative about everything?  Not only does this technology make things easier it can be made to be intuitive.

What about when you leave the house and forget to lock the door or turn off the light.  Once you leave, the house knows you have a proper set of keys with the ability to get back into the house then locks all doors and sets security lights appropriately. Or when you lock your keys in your car.  you can do a touch sequence on the handle and immediately access your vehicle without calling a locksmith or a family member to help you back in.

BTW: Usual suspects and everyone who game his post a thumbs up should be ashamed.

May 8, 2012 2:41PM

All means more obese people and more power consumption.

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