Student Yang Zhang created the Electrick system, which uses a technique called ‘electric field tomography’ to turn almost any surface into a touchpad. They’ve successfully turned wood, plastic, walls, and even soft substances like jelly into sensitive surfaces. Small electrodes are attached to the edges of the surface that sense the touch and movements of a finger as they move across the painted surface.
As reported by Techcrunch, the the researchers wrote:
“Like many touchscreens, Electrick relies on the shunting effect — when a finger touches the touchpad, it shunts a bit of electric current to ground. By attaching multiple electrodes to the periphery of an object or conductive coating, Zhang and his colleagues showed they could localize where and when such shunting occurs. They did this by using electric field tomography — sequentially running small amounts of current through the electrodes in pairs and noting any voltage differences.”
Although it’s still a new technology, the creators have big plans, and see a future where ordinary objects like the walls in your home or the back of your smartphone case could become a touchpad.
See the tech in action here: