It's time again to talk about touchscreens on every surface imaginable, this time through Microsoft Research and Carnegie Mellon University. These groups have brought forth a solution for the age-old first-world problem of how a person who wants dial their phone using only the surface of their hand might do so. The solution is this: OmniTouch, a system that although currently requires the user to wear an obtrusive shoulder-mounted monstrosity to project and collect interfaces and the ways they interact with them, will sometime be as simple as a box of playing-cards-sized device which will work with the user to turn any surface into a touchscreen.
This week's Association for Computing Machinery's Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology in Santa Barbara California is set to be the place where this project is formally unveiled, it currently combining a laser pico projector and a depth-sensing camera to create images on any surface and the ability to read interactions with those images in 3D space. Think of the Xbox Kinect, then imagine being able to use this sort of thing on whatever surface you like. Depth sensing on the go.
In the video you'll see several different uses for this project already in the works such as dialing a phone, writing virtual notes on a notepad, and painting on a wall with your hand as the pallet. Like pico projectors we've seen in the past, this iteration of the OmniTouch project adjusts automatically to surface shapes and orientations to minimize distortion, and through the future the device will not need to be calibrated or for "any special sensors to be worn on the skin," people will simply be able to drop it on their shoulder and start working.
Natural Interaction Research Group at Microsoft member Hrvoje Benko notes: "We wanted to capitalize on the tremendous surface area the real world provides." And we can't wait!
BONUS here's another video showing more on finger tracking in this project: