Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have designed a new touch sensing technology using spray paint, a few electrodes, and a computer system.
With the technology, named Electrick, almost anything can be turned into a touch sensing surface.
Electrick can be applied to objects as diverse as “walls, furniture, steering wheels, toys and even Jell-O,” claim the CMU researchers.
The trick is to apply electrically conductive coatings or materials to objects or surfaces, or to craft objects using conductive materials.
By attaching a series of electrodes to the conductive materials, researchers showed they could use a well-known technique called electric field tomography to sense the position of a finger touch.
The group is scheduled to present Electrick at CHI 2017, the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, this week in Denver, Colorado.
Until now, large touch surfaces have been expensive and irregularly shaped, or flexible touch surfaces have been largely available only in research labs.
Current touch input technologies are best suited for small and flat application such as smartphones, tablets and kiosks.
But these technologies are too expensive to expensive to scale to large surfaces such as walls and furniture, or irregularly shaped surfaces such as tools.
The researchers used Electrick to add touch sensing to objects as varied as a steering wheel and the surface of a guitar, among others.
The spray paint technology could be used to make an interactive smartphone case — opening applications such as a camera based on how the user holds the phone.