MIT SprayableTech turns any surface into a touchpad control

Researchers at MIT created a touch interface system they've called SprayableTech. This tech builds on the ideas of scientists and researchers like Mark Weiser of Palo Alto Research Center, Xerox, CA, USA, and his paper The Computer for the 21st Century, published in the year 1999. Back then, an idea was stirring. An idea that the world would one day have digital user interfaces so seamlessly integrated into our everyday lives, that buttons and controls and the rest of our physical environments would "indistinguishable from one another."

Ideas presented in Weiser's paper came before production-ready touchscreen devices like smartphones and tablets. His was a universe in which we'd have multiple devices, digital whiteboards, and screens of all sorts. His ideas largely centered on traditional UI, regardless of hardware type.

The MIT report released this week takes an approach that focuses on materials that can scale. With SprayableTech, creators are able to apply a touch-sensitive set of buttons and/or controllers to a wide variety of surfaces... with a spraypaint can. This approach allows the environment in which we already reside to be the surface in and on which new controls can be integrated.

In the video you'll see above, MIT researchers show the way in which the materials are applied. They show the surfaces with which these sprayed touch interfaces have been tried. They tried wallpaper, concrete, wood, and bathroom tile. They sprayed curves, angles, couches, and walls, small spaces and large – they sprayed them all!

Imagine the uses for this next-generation solution. Can you think of any everyday situation in which a large-scale or oddly-shaped bit of spray touch interface application could be helpful?

For more information on this subject, take a peek at the paper Sprayable User Interfaces: Prototyping Large-Scale Interactive Surfaces with Sensors and Displays with MIT CSAIL (HCI Engineering group). This paper was authored by Michael Wessely, Ticha Sethapakdi, Carlos Castillo, Jackson C. Snowden, Ollie Hanton, Isabel P.S. Qamar, Mike Fraser, Anne Roudaut, and Stefanie Mueller.