Everything Can Be A Digital Surface Now, Courtesy Microsoft, Carnegie Mellon

By Lisa Carlin

The world is your digital oyster’s shellular surface. Meet OmniTouch, a wearable depth-sensing projection system. OmniTouch is developed by researchers at the Human Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University and Microsoft Research.

The current prototype allows everyday surfaces – including your own body – to be appropriated for graphical multitouch interaction. You can end up using your own hands as a telephone keypad if you are so inclined. Or doodle digitally on the table perhaps.

OmniTouch allows users to control interactive applications by tapping or dragging their fingers, much as they would with touchscreens found on smartphones or tablet computers. The projector can superimpose keyboards, keypads and other controls onto any surface, automatically adjusting for the surface’s shape and orientation to minimize distortion of the projected images.

The proof-of-concept OmniTouch system consists of three principal components. First is a custom, short-range  depth camera, which provides a 320×240 depth map at 30 FPS. The prototype was initially constructed using a Microsoft Kinect. The second component is a Microvision ShowWX+ laser pico-projector. Finally, the depth camera and projector are tethered to a desktop computer for prototyping purposes. Both the depth camera and projector are rigidly mounted to a form-fitting metal frame, which is worn on the shoulders, and secured with a chest strap.

Although the current prototype is fairly large, the there are no significant barriers to miniaturization, says the inventors Chris Harrison, Hrvoje Benko, and Andrew D. Wilson. It is entirely possible that a future incarnation of OmniTouch could be the size of a box of matches, worn as pendent or watch. With OmniTouch providing capabilities similar to that of mice and touchscreens, the application space is expansive.

Chris Harrison(Ph.D. student, Co-Inventor, OmniTouch): It’s conceivable that anything you can do on today’s mobile devices, you will be able to do on your hand using OmniTouch.

(Lisa Carlin writes on gadgets and geeky things for  She can be reached at [email protected])


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