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Creating a "Force Field" Invisible Touch Interface

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the put-your-hand-on-my-sensor dept.

Canada 138

angry tapir writes "Using infrared sensors like the ones on television remote controls, Texas A&M University students presented an inexpensive multitouch system at the Computer Human Interaction (CHI) conference in Vancouver. 'I like to consider it an optical force field; it's like a picture frame where we shoot thousands of light beams across and we can detect anything that intersects that frame,' said Jonathan Moeller, a research assistant in the Interface Ecology Lab at Texas A&M University. The frame is lined with 256 IR sensors, which are connected to a computer. When ZeroTouch is mounted over a traditional computer screen it turns the display into a multitouch surface. Taken one step further, if the screen is suspended then a user could paint a virtual canvas."

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138 comments

Okay... this is cool (2)

mark-t (151149) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089122)

The question is, will it drive down the price of devices with multitouch capability?

More specifically, could we see this being applied in a competitor to Microsoft Surface anytime soon?

Re:Okay... this is cool (0)

MichaelKristopeit401 (1976824) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089414)

could we see this being applied in a competitor to Microsoft Surface anytime soon?

yes... if you consider 1991 as "anytime soon".

you're an idiot.

Re:Okay... this is cool (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089782)

As I don't recall seeing anything like MS Surface in 1991, I'm unsure why you would make reference to it here.

Also, name calling is generally the recourse of a person who is unable to construct a reasoned argument.

Re:Okay... this is cool (1)

MichaelKristopeit402 (1978292) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089978)

broadcasting ignorant hypocrisy is generally the act of the hypocritically ignorant.

i heard someone just came up with what they call a "wheel" and "axle"... i wonder if they'll be applied in a competitor to the ford pinto anytime soon?

you're an idiot.

Re:Okay... this is cool (1)

errandum (2014454) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089610)

I don't really see this as a competitor for the microsoft surface.

I'd love for someone to enable the back of my phone for touch, leaving the screen clear of my clumsy heads. Something like this might make it possible

Not news (-1, Troll)

ModernGeek (601932) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089130)

This is stupid, not news, and a waste of everyones time. These kids need to get over themselves and start on some real work.

Re:Not news (2)

mark-t (151149) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089158)

Don't hold back... tell us how you really feel.

Seriously... what is your problem with this? If you read the article and watched the video, you'd likely see that the applications for this are enormous.

Re:Not news (-1, Troll)

MichaelKristopeit421 (2018882) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089204)

if you knew anything about anything, you'd realize this exact tech has been recreated over and over since the 80s... irtouch.com etc...

you're an idiot.

slashdot = stagnated

Re:Not news (3, Insightful)

mark-t (151149) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089258)

Ad-hominems don't exactly make your own position any stronger.

Bear in mind that something doesn't have to always utilize cutting edge technology to find a new market.

Consider also that factors may have been present that caused the technology to not live up to any major expectations in the 80's which may not be applicable today.

Re:Not news (2)

cyberfunk2 (656339) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089272)

I'm not a huge fan of personal attacks, but you've got to admit, the guy's right.. this stuff is really very old stuff... it's not even marginally innovative.

Re:Not news (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089288)

Old stuff is not necessarily bad stuff... I'm at a complete loss as to how this technology could not be viably used to make large multitouch displays more economically viable than the outrageously priced Microsoft Surface.

Re:Not news (2)

cyberfunk2 (656339) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089316)

It's not that it's old... it's that its' NOT new in any tangible way... no new tech , no new application, no real invention here.. which makes it pretty "meh" in perspective.

That this stuff has been sold commercially for decades is pretty damning in terms of this being a "So what? " news item.

Re:Not news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36089520)

I agree but the amount of slashvertisement and crappy articles that have been added in the past few months have degraded the quality of this site tremendously, not to mention that /. is always behind by a minimum of a few days. I don't really care for the latter because it's always been that way but quality has been steadily declining and then poof, past few months it was as if the site was under new control and everything turned to shit. Gawker is terrible, engadget isn't worth a crap with their bias apple appeal, IGN is perversion, and ars is the most decent of them all but news on there is added very slowly.

Re:Not news (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090468)

hogwash in computer years its a billion, its like the Greeks fighting with static electricity on their amber everything, then in 2011 some kids think "well duh we must have been so stupid to not think of a generator based on this concept of statk electricity!"

sounds like a high school 4 person group project in electronics class, oh wait we did a lower resolution version of this back in 1994 as a time killer semester, what "innovations" do we do now?

nasa plant seedlings and cockroach fucking in space? oh some dipshit found a use for a IR photo-transistor from radio shack? what's next? canned food? bandages?

for fucks sake America this is the best we have?

Re:Not news (0)

MichaelKristopeit422 (2018884) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089376)

ur mum's face is Ad-hominems. i provided an example. did you miss it? did you simply choose to ignore it as it made you out to be a fool? do you believe this comment is "Ad-hominem?" do you believe all comments are "Ad-hominem?"

you're an ignorant hypocrite.

you're ignorance has exactly made your own position weaker.

you're an idiot.

Re:Not news (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089670)

Ad-hominems don't exactly make your own position any stronger.

Technically, it's not an ad-hominem if you list the reason for the name-calling (which he did, beforehand). That said, Michael Kristopeit### is a known troll.

Re:Not news (1)

ModernGeek (601932) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089268)

That seems to be the consensus. What are we to do?

Re:Not news (1)

xTantrum (919048) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090344)

yeah this doesn't mean shit till apple creates it. Then everyone will jump on the bandwagon. Oh wait...

Re:Not news (1)

Ruke (857276) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089278)

Doesn't work in the sun, for one thing. For another, it's necessarily going to be pretty bulky; it's not suitable for mobile applications. Since your finger has to interrupt the beam, there will necessarily be a ridge around the outside of your viewing area, which will attract dirt and grime, which will interrupt the IR beams. The resolution is exactly equal to the number of IR senors that you stack around the outside of the thing; it doesn't exactly scale well.

It's not exactly ground-breaking tech. It's simple enough to be suitable for an undergraduate project, but the applications in industry are extremely limited.

Re:Not news (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089308)

I was thinking of it more for applications that weren't mobile... like a touch-screen desk surface.

Resolution was initially a concern of mine as well when I saw the article, until I saw the video and with only 256 beams around the entire frame it appeared to have quite respectable resolution.

Re:Not news (0)

MichaelKristopeit401 (1976824) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089448)

wow... you're really creative... did you think of that all by yourself?

how about at a nightclub in new york in the 90s covering the entire bar which was also lit from beneath with projectors making an interactive surface?? wouldn't that be a cool thing to make decades ago?

you're an idiot. file under 'i' for 'idiot'. (that's you!)

old news for dumb nerds. stuff that hasn't mattered for decades. slashdot = stagnated.

Re:Not news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36089328)

With a pulsed beam it will work in the sun, or any incredibly bright IR source. That's how TV remotes work, using modulated 40kHz transmission of an IR beam. Works in any light at huge range, cheap too.

Re:Not news (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090072)

Doesn't work in the sun, for one thing.

It might not work on the ocean floor either, but so what?

Fer chrissake, what did you invent today?

Re:Not news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36089162)

I feel like this is something people hack up in their back yard... I mean, optical sensors.. come on slashdot.. this isn't news.

Re:Not news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36089576)

Projects that people hack up in their backyard are what slashdot needs MORE of, not less. More stuff like this and less stories about smartphones, please.

Hasn't this been done already? (4, Insightful)

honestmonkey (819408) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089152)

I swear we used to have these at work, 10-15 years ago. They were not multi-touch, but that was likely due to the computer interface (serial) and the perhaps more primitive technology at the time. But I'm pretty sure the sensors were infra-red. As I recall, it wasn't necessarily the most accurate system. So, these guys just improved it a bit, or is this truly "revolutionary"?

Re:Hasn't this been done already? (3, Informative)

guruevi (827432) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089196)

Yes, the Elo CarrollTouch Touchscreens use this technique.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Elo but we have 2 of these screens for primate research.

Re:Hasn't this been done already? (1)

UncleTogie (1004853) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090084)

The technique debuted commercially in the 80s. From Wikipedia:
"The HP-150 from 1983 was one of the world's earliest commercial touchscreen computers. Similar to the PLATO IV system, the touch technology used employed infrared transmitters and receivers mounted around the bezel of its 9" Sony Cathode Ray Tube (CRT), which detected the position of any non-transparent object on the screen."

Next Window (1)

ovoskeuiks (665553) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090338)

Plenty of touch overlays for larger screens used this technology, I have a stack of overlays for 32" panels that use IR like this. A much better options would be something like Next Window Overlays http://www.nextwindow.com/ [nextwindow.com] They use a pair of 1 dimesional ir cameras and a bar of ir lights to triangulate objects in their field of view so by placing the cameras in the top two corners of the screen and the ir leds between them you can have a simple bar rather than a square frame like this thing. Mount a bunch of them on the ceiling next to each other and you'd have instant 3D multitouch

Re:Hasn't this been done already? (1)

grouchomarxist (127479) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090532)

Have you tried giving the primates an iPad? Just curious?

Re:Hasn't this been done already? (0)

wiredlogic (135348) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089198)

Yes this isn't new technology (other than the multi-touch support). IR touch screens have been around at least since the 80's. You could get add-on bezels for the Apple ][. They are used today for industrial settings where the environment is to harsh or dirty for resistive or capacitive sensors.

Re:Hasn't this been done already? (2)

Grizzley9 (1407005) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089710)

At least since the 80's. These were used in a local business museum (Enterprise Square USA) game called Venture. This is really old tech, the only thing remotely interesting is it's ability to now do multi-touch. What next, Pong in 3D!!

Re:Hasn't this been done already? (3, Insightful)

Cosgrach (1737088) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089206)

Yes it was done before, but without the multi-touch. We had them as well. A bunch of IR-LEDs and IR receivers along the frame of the CRT. Welcome to the 1990's. I'd vote for simply 'improved', certainly it is not revolutionary.

Re:Hasn't this been done already? (1, Redundant)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089234)

These are commercially available for schools already. Whiteboard manufacturers are buying this off the shelf to integrate with their existing whiteboard systems; they use IR emitters/sensors and hooks up via USB as a standard USB HID multitouch device.

Re:Hasn't this been done already? (2)

Grizzley9 (1407005) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089722)

Or they could just use a Wiimote ala Johnny Lee: http://johnnylee.net/projects/wii/ [johnnylee.net]

Re:Hasn't this been done already? (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090130)

Schools usually prefer to buy products with a warranty attached. In many cases, it's required.

Re:Hasn't this been done already? (0)

billcopc (196330) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089264)

Yep, the only thing that's "new" is how cheaply they can be made today. Back in the 90s I worked with a 10ft by 40ft optical sensor array, which drove a synthesizer as a big performance-art techno theremin.

It had multitouch, though certain combinations would not fire due to line of sight limitations. It was certainly good enough to amaze our druggy audience :)

Re:Hasn't this been done already? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36089304)

I'm pretty sure SmartBoards are the same thing and they've been around forever. On smartboards I only recall seeing the IR diodes in each of the 4 corners though.

Re:Hasn't this been done already? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36090538)

Unlike ZeroTouch, SmartBoards do not track 20+ touch points at 85 frames per second.

Re:Hasn't this been done already? (1)

Nemyst (1383049) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089362)

The latest generation of Sony Readers use infrared touchscreens. This method isn't exactly novel, but here it's applied to a much larger screen and is said to be an add-in component, which is still rather cool. Pick your favorite display and you know you can make it multitouch on top of that.

Re:Hasn't this been done already? (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089474)

Iirc, a Swedish company Made an attempt at selling mobile phones using this as the sensor system for their touch screen phones. Was back around 2000 or so.

Re:Hasn't this been done already? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36089664)

Touchscreens were incorporated into a computer-assisted learning terminal that came out in 1972 as part of the PLATO project.

The HP-150 from 1983 was probably the world's earliest commercial touchscreen computer. It used a 9" Sony CRT surrounded by infrared transmitters and receivers which detect the position of any non-transparent object on the screen.

Found this info on Notascoolasitseems.

Re:Hasn't this been done already? (1)

picoboy (1868294) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089966)

Try 39 years ago, at least. University of Illinois PLATO IV terminals connected to a Control Data mainframe. We used to do our physics and chemistry homework on these things, and I can tell you from personal experience that they worked great.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Platovterm1981.jpg [wikipedia.org]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PLATO_(computer_system) [wikipedia.org]

Re:Hasn't this been done already? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36090264)

Posted this comment earlier, but it got deleted somehow, not sure why.

Disclaimer: I'm the guy in the video.

The biggest difference between our approach and prior infrared touchscreen technologies is the use of one-to-many emitter-sensor pairings. Each infrared emitter is detected by all sensors in view, as opposed to using a single sensor for each emitter. Using a single sensor for each emitter limits the touch detection to two perpendicular grids of parallel light beams. Our approach enables us to reliably distinguish multiple touches, whereas prior infrared touch solutions have ghost touch ambiguities because of the nature of parallel beam sensing.

You can find more information in the technical papers at our website: ecologylab.net/zerotouch/

Also, to the guy who thinks he can do this with a handful of infrared sensors and an Arduino, please give it a try and let me know how that works out. There are a lot of very precise timing constraints on a system like this, especially when you are collecting data from 256 sensors, 2400 times a second. Not something you can really do on an Arduino.

Re:Hasn't this been done already? (1)

honestmonkey (819408) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090372)

Thanks for the reply. I had worked on a system in the early to mid 90's where we used an IR touch grid to implement "buttons" that were drawn on the screen. I think we used the CarrollTouch system mentioned above. Guess I should have RTFA. This definitely sounds more interesting than what we did.

Re:Hasn't this been done already? (1)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090374)

> I swear we used to have these at work, 10-15 years ago. They were not multi-touch, but that was likely due to the computer interface (serial) and the perhaps more primitive technology at the time. But I'm pretty sure the sensors were infra-red. As I recall, it wasn't necessarily the most accurate system. So, these guys just improved it a bit, or is this truly "revolutionary"?

They have advanced significantly since then, including multitouch and even interactive objects (think 3D icon-pucks you can place on the screen, using their position and the shape of their footprint as input). There is a set of Linux packages for sure, and I think other OS's can be used. They have become the subject of quite a bit of hardware hacking. Not hard to do -- could be a weekend project, around $1k including projector, for a skilled tinker. I'll probably be using my old 1280x768 (WXGA) projector to make one in the next few months.

YouTube Instructional Video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4lAxBeCMTM [youtube.com]

Lots of links:
http://www.google.com/search?q=multi-touch+table [google.com]

Re:Hasn't this been done already? (1)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090404)

Err -- my bad, the home-brew ones are not "optical force field" based, as described in the article (similar to original touchscreen technology), they are based on changing with the surface index of refraction when you touch the screen. I suspect the index-of-refraction approach is sensitive to fingerprints, which would be an advantage of capacitive touch or this optical force field.

The "air-canvas" concept is interesting too, and could not be done with either capacitive touch or index-of-refraction.

2001 called... (1)

MichaelKristopeit420 (2018880) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089174)

it wants 1985's tech back, and curious if slashdot has remained stagnated.

this kind of tech is so old, companies in the business for many years have already gone bust [irtouch.com] "if you haven't read it yet, then it's news to you"??

rob malda is a joke. completely pathetic.

slashdot = stagnated

Really ? (0)

cyberfunk2 (656339) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089184)

This is news ? I mean, it's a cute college project and all..... but it's sort of a joke compared to the cutting edge. And the cutting edge is what's NEWs.

    This is something i'd expect to see in make mag, or similar.

Re:Really ? (1)

cyberfunk2 (656339) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089230)

Also, FYI.. these guys are re-inventing the wheel... so, sadly, it's not even new: http://www.irtouch.com/ [irtouch.com]

Re:Really ? (1)

Ruke (857276) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089292)

Yeah, that Make comment is about right. I could probably throw one of these together given an arduino, an afternoon, and a handful of IR sensors. Not exactly groundbreaking...

Re:Really ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36089668)

Disclaimer: I'm the guy in the video.

The big difference between our technology and previous IR touch solutions is that previous IR touch screens use a one-to-one relationship between emitters and receivers. That is, there is one emitter for every receiver, and the only beams of light that can be interrupted run straight across the display. This leads to touchpoint ambiguities when multiple fingers are on the screen. Our technology emits light simultaneously to all sensors at the same time, which is what gives it multi-touch capabilities. Check out the technical papers at http://ecologylab.net/zerotouch/ for more details.

Also, to Ruke, it's not as simple as an Arduino and a handful of IR sensors. There are pretty complex control systems involved in timing the pulsing of LEDs, modulating the duty cycle, reading off sensor data, and repeating the cycle 2500 times every second, for a full-screen refresh rate of 80Hz. I'm sure you could prototype something at 1-2 Hertz with an arudino, but you're right, that wouldn't be very groundbreaking.

Re:Really ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36089958)

Yah, sprite of spritesmods did it better with a linear sensor from a scanner and a couple LEDs. You probably saw it and ripped him off.

http://spritesmods.com/?art=lineccdts [spritesmods.com]

Re:Really ? (1)

mevets (322601) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090270)

Don't let them bum you out; the slash in slashdot is more about cutting than sharpness...
It sounds like you did something pretty decent, and good luck with your studies. Stick to the low level/hardware interfacing side of the industry. Its a rich area with an increasing lack of expertise.

Gig'em (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36089226)

Gig'em Aggies!!!

ancient tech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36089232)

This is 1960s tech. I used a system like this back at my first job. It wasn't multi-touch (not sure the concept of such existed back then), but it worked pretty much the way described in the article. I think the screen I used was installed in front of a plasma display.

Plato System? (1)

Hartree (191324) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089702)

That sounds like a Plato IV terminal. They had that system in front of an orange plasma panel display. It wasn't as high a resolution as this, but the idea was the same. Worked fairly well, too.

  Here's a picture of one. [illinois.edu]

I like to consider it a pretty flower. (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089242)

No wait -- a roaring lion!

Better: a subordinated debenture.

I mean, if we're going to just go making up shit like "force field" when characterizing a simple grid of eye-beam sensors...

(Hint: where does the "force" come in?)

And yes, the earliest touch-screen technologies were essentially exactly this sort of light-beam interruptor laid near the surface of a CRT. They were soon replaced by surface-acoustical-wave systems and even capacitive feedback through the cathode beam itself.

Urg.

Re:I like to consider it a pretty flower. (1)

cyberfunk2 (656339) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089282)

Yea, I was imagining something like force-feedback via the beams.. now THAT would've been cool / slick.

Don't talk put your hand on my sensor ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36089284)

can't resist the Pet Sounds reference. Go ahead: Off Topic

Old Technology (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089334)

1981 called... They want their technology back.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Touchscreen#Infrared [wikipedia.org]

(and yes, for you xkcd [xkcd.com] fans, I did warn them about Haiti and Japan)

This has been around (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36089358)

Mettler Toledo has been using this exact technology for a long time in touch screen grocery store scales. It is much more robust than the typical touchscreen and is easily and cheaply repaired when is does break. This has been around much longer than today's glass touchscreens. What's the news here again?

Slashot .... (3, Funny)

cyberfunk2 (656339) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089374)

.. demolishing your self-worth and your senior research project in front of all of Nerddom.

Re:Slashot .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36090604)

actually, its your reputation here that's been demolished, cyberfunk2. pay more attention to the details, next time.

BUT.... (3, Informative)

uncanny (954868) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089438)

how is this a FORCE field?

Re:BUT.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36090066)

I'd call it a 'field disruption' interface rather than a 'force field' interface.

They're introducing disruptions in a saturated 2D IR field, which allows for multi-touch as well as point density identification. 'Force field'? Not seeing where the standard 'F' (force) we all know from physics, intersects here unless you define the density of disruption as 'force' (F).

/my take.. work at A&M, but in a separate College

U-Force! (1)

BlindSpot (512363) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089476)

Reminds me of the U-Force [wikipedia.org] I got for the original NES - that was over 20 years ago! Still have it in its original box, actually. Maybe in another 25 years it'll be worth something... it certainly wasn't when it came out! It sorta worked for Punch-Out, and not at all for anything else.

I can't remember if the U-Force was what would now be called "multi-touch"... probably not. Didn't RTFA, but at any rate I assume (and would hope) the one in the article works a lot better!

Since when is Texas part of Canada? (1)

Barbara, not Barbie (721478) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089490)

Texas A&M University

http://slashdot.org/index2.pl [slashdot.org] ?fhfilter=canada

What the heck, now we can blame Canada for stupid stories about 1970s tech making the front page.

sorry, Disney did it first. (1)

DragonTHC (208439) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089492)

In my local mall, during last christmas holiday, Disney set up an interactive display game to promote their wild-4-disney passes.
It consisted of multiple flat-screen tvs setup in a wall with an IR sensor setup in a field-sweep above the whole display. The point was to "drag" christmas ornaments to decorate the tree.

This is a similar tech with multi-touch.

or (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089502)

you can use a webcam for free out of a dumpster and stick it in a light box like everyone else has been doing

Are we really bragging about using a "magic eye" (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089518)

cause those have been out for like what 60+ years

you have light on one end, photodetector on the other, there you made a force field here is some juice and a cookie, go play now

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HP 150 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36089532)

Pretty sure that HP had this same technology on the HP 150 I had back in '84-'85... Somehow it's re-invented 25 years later?

Re:HP 150 (1)

Cosgrach (1737088) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089738)

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

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Why is there so much of this spam popping up on Slashdot lately? Slashdot has historically done well at avoiding comment spam, but it seems that in the past few weeks, I've seen a number of these types of spam.

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Re:free p90x (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36089770)

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Old news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36089742)

The military used similar devices back in the 70's.

RDF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36089822)

Maybe Apple can re-tune the Reality Distortion Field to act as a force field interface. That would improve battery life, since it could run on the user's smugness.

Welcome to 1983 (2)

dazedNconfuzed (154242) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089850)

Main feature of the HP-150 [wikipedia.org] .

1972 - PLATO IV (similar, but no multi-touch) (1)

theodp (442580) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089974)

A Brief History of Pads, Part 2: Touch me! [x7.fi] : "PLATO was a series of educational computer terminals that originated from the University of Illinois. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, PLATO contained many features that we take for granted today like e-mail, message boards and online tests. The fourth generation PLATO IV terminal featured a flat (and bright orange) plasma screen that students could touch to answer questions. The touch function was achieved by a series of infrared lights and receptors around the rim of the display. A finger would break a beam of light and trigger a touch."

Canada? (1)

simonbp (412489) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090016)

Is Texas in Canada now?

Re:Canada? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36090228)

Indeed; why are so many non-Canada related (or very vaguely related) articles popping up with the Canada tag? 'Sup slashdot?

Recent election... (1)

mevets (322601) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090296)

The Canadian government is owned by Texans; so no, Canada is in Texas now. We have our own mini GB, just lacking his likability and intelligence.

Re:Canada? (1)

mini me (132455) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090378)

I agree it is a strange choice, but the event took place in Canada, so there is at least some Canadian connection.

Old hat tech (1)

l0ungeb0y (442022) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090040)

Seen this a long time ago, at least 10 years ago. It was essentially a frame lined with IR sensors facing each other and tracking your hand movements and turned any flat panel display (such as a plasma TV) into a touchscreen surface. While it didn't do multi-touch, it was essentially the exact same concept

You mean like how all touchscreens USED to work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36090128)

meh x 1000

Old news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36090178)

Trident submarines used this technology on an old piece of equipment called DRS. And it sucked. I have no idea why this is news.

What's new about this? (5, Informative)

jm0le (2139028) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090326)

Disclaimer: I'm the guy in the video.

The big difference between what we're doing, and what's been done before, is that we are using one-to-many communication between emitters and sensors, as opposed to earlier systems, which use matched emitter/sensor pairs on opposite sides of the display to generate a series of parallel lines in both the x and y directions that can be interrupted.

By reading from a large number of sensors for each infrared emitter, we generate a dense mesh of infrared light beams, which is what enables the sensor to detect multiple touches. Prior infrared systems using parallel beams suffer from ghost touch ambiguities when multiple fingers are on the display. Ours does not. This is the big differentiator between what's been done before and what we've done.

Most SMART boards and other commercial multi-touch sensors, use two cameras in the corners of a screen (some use four), and computer vision algorithms to identify and track touches on the display. Our approach is different in that it generates a more complete visual hull of the interactive area than with these types of systems. Using two cameras means you can only reliably track two touches due to occlusion issues, whereas we can detect 20+ touchpoints with high reliability.

More info can be found on our website: http://ecologylab.net/zerotouch/ [ecologylab.net]

The publications at the bottom of the page should help slashdot readers understand the technical innovations a little bit better.

not tracking well (1)

bugs2squash (1132591) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090336)

A lot of people seem to have missed the point here. Either that or the old sensors were cleverer than I thought. Anyhow, I like this approach, I wonder how well it copes with fingers bunched together looking like a single fat finger or whether it can still be confident that the finger it tracks out of a bunch is the same one it tracked going in without getting confused.

Will keyboards and mice become obsolete one day? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36090494)

It won't be long before the keyboard and mouse become about as scarce as the modern day typewriter.

I wonder if anyone is going to claim a (twenty year) patent on this (likely) publicly funded product?

This actually seems to be really new! (1)

GrantRobertson (973370) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090568)

As a semi-professional cynic and the guy who tore into the Rice University students [slashdot.org] who's PR dept. claimed they had invented a revolutionary solution to a huge health problem, I had initially thought, as many here have claimed, that this IR-beam touch-screen frame was nothing new. However, I was also trained at one of the the EloGraphics plants (I can't remember where the heck it was now) on how to install and repair those old IR-beam touch screens. I also serviced several other makes of IR-beam touch screens when I was a technician at the California Museum of Science and Industry in Los Angeles back in the late 1980s.

Those old IR-beam touch screens worked on a very basic principle. The beams went across the screen in a strict grid pattern of horizontal and vertical lines. Very simple hardware detected which horizontal beam and which vertical beam had been blocked and then reported a basic X-Y coordinate. This is why, as one commenter has mentioned, the data could be transmitted via serial connection. The data consisted of nothing but a series of coordinates.

The main thing that people complained about with this design was: If a user placed two fingers on the screen or laid their finger against the screen such that it blocked more than one horizontal and/or vertical beam, then the coordinate reported always indicated the top-most and left-most interrupted beams. There simply was no way to detect the correct position of more than one finger. This was because of the way the electronics were designed. The circuit simply polled each sensor in turn till it found the first blocked beam in each of the horizontal and vertical directions. Those sensor numbers were reported as the coordinates and the electronics reset and started polling from the top-left again. It seemed an intractable problem - at the time - to detect when fingers were blocking one horizontal beam but two vertical beams or any other combination other than just one of each.

Now, neither the article nor the video mentions it, but by looking carefully at the first few seconds of the video, one can see that this sensor array works in an entirely different way. It appears that they use - as they said - "thousands of beams" but not in a simple horizontal-vertical grid. Instead, they send them out at dozens of different angles from each of hundreds of points along the edge of the frame. Then by compiling the list of all the different beams that are blocked at any given time they can build up a picture of exactly where something is blocking all of those beams, no matter how big it is or how many there are. Again, take a close look at the video from seconds 3 - 6 and seconds 42 - 45. You will see them display "what the computer sees" represented by lines for each beam that isn't blocked and the blank space where no beams cross from any direction. It is almost like one of those lame string-art things we used to make in the 1970s, except you just put a string from every point to every point on the frame, then remove just enough to make some holes in the webbing.

I have to say, this is definitely a significant advance on what I know of the current technology. Now, it is possible - in the intervening 30 years - that other technologies have come up which used this multi-angle beam system. But I haven't seen any. And certainly none with the software behind it to sus out the full size and shape of each object blocking the beams.

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