Input devices

Microsoft's Kinect and $150 software transforms ordinary surfaces into touchscreens

Working with Microsoft, a company called Ubi Interactive is bringing us ever-closer to the day when everything is a touch screen.

Microsoft

The software from Ubi (no relation to the game publisher Ubisoft) turns any surface into a touch screen when combined with a projector and Microsoft's Kinect for Windows motion controller. It's available for purchase, starting at $149 with support for projected images up to 45 inches.

Microsoft first showed off Ubi's software last year at its Worldwide Partner Conference. Ubi had been a part of Microsoft's Kinect Accelerator program, which helps startups figure out how to use the technology in interesting ways. Since then, Ubi has been testing the software in a private beta with 50 organizations. Now, it's available to anyone running Windows 8.

Just don't think of it as a quick and dirty way to have touch screens all over your house. Ideally, the projector should be set up behind a transparent surface, so you don't block the projection with your hands and arms, and Kinect should be set up in an area where it can easily see your hand movements. Ubi recommends a ceiling mount. Also, keep in mind that for projected images larger than 45-inches, you'd need Ubi's professional software, which costs $379 and up.

Microsoft

Much like Kinect for Windows itself, Ubi's touch screen software is aimed at business uses, such as interactive storefronts and boardroom collaborations. Still, a Microsoft blog post imagines some consumer applications, such as setting up a child's "entire bedroom wall to play interactive games like Angry Birds." That's probably going to be too cost prohibitive for most families, once you factor in the PC, the projector, Kinect and the software.

But at least the potential is there. Between more pervasive touch screens and projected images that respond to touch, the idea that anything could be a computing surface doesn't seem so far off. Ubi's software seems like a step in that direction.

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