Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and Microsoft Research have created OmniTouch, a wearable system that turns walls, arms, hands, table tops, paper, and just about everything else into interactive touch surfaces.
What makes it all work is a depth-sensing camera that tracks finger movements. The system includes the camera and a laser pico-projector—which looks like a Microsoft Kinect that is worn on the user’s shoulder. The projector displays numbers, letters, or any other graphic on a surface for you to interact with. You can dial a phone number, type on a keyboard, and even interact with drawing apps or map projections on your hand or a piece of paper. OmniTouch is also smart enough to distinguish between a finger that has clicked on a selection and one that is just hovering. It also boasts that no calibration and no special training are needed to operate the device.
I can imagine this technology being helpful for people who have visual or motor skill limitations that make using a smartphone difficult. Despite the growing size of smartphone screens, some people still have some difficulty in using them. With the OmniTouch, people would have a larger area with which they could interact with their devices instead of just being confined to a small 4-inch screen.
This is just a proof of concept right now, but hopefully it makes its way to the mainstream market soon. After all, who wouldn’t want to be able to doodle on whatever surface they wanted?