3-metre, 65-finger and blow touchscreen debuts

A Portuguese company is hoping to transform our landscape and environment into one big touchscreen if they have their way, with a new technology debuting in Amsterdam.

Called projective capacitive touchscreen technology, the tech has the ability to turn virtually any surface into a touchscreen device for users to interact with.

"Our technology only captures touch, you can use it anywhere", Miguel Fonseca, chief business officer tells Pocket-lint in a one-to-one interview.

The technology is actually a thinner-than-paper polymer film that when applied to glass, plastic or wood turns the surface interactive.

The film, which features a grid of nanowires embedded into it, is able to monitor when and where it is touched and relay those co-ordinates to a controller, which in turn is read by software - making the user believe they have interacted with the specific point in question on the screen.

"You touch, it measures the disturbance, it will see where you are touching", comments Fonseca, explaining how the technology works.

The film can actually measure lots of disturbances it turns out, with current support for 16-finger multitouch on a 50-inch screen and future support up to 65 fingers at any one time coming in future developments. Furthermore the film can also measure airflow.

"Users could blow on the screen to interact with the interface", says Fonseca before going on to give an example. "Chances are when you use a tablet PC you'll have it on your lap or near your face. You could blow on it to close the monitor, or blow out a candle in a game".

Asked why regular wind wouldn't be an issue, Fonseca tells us that it's all about energy, something that wind doesn't have in this application and therefore not making it an issue.

"We measure the energy displacement on the glass".

Where it gets even more complicated is that users don't even have to touch the film for the technology to work. In fact the film can be on the other side of any surface as long as that surface isn't thicker than 15mm.

"You can turn a table into a multitouch table", boasts Fonseca. "Or the inside of a shop window".

It's where the technology gets its name, working like an iPhone for example, the capacitive screen projects through the material turning the surface into what appears to be a touchscreen surface for you to interact with.

"All of a sudden, everything could become touch enabled", Fonseca tells us.

The film, which is currently available in sizes from 7 inches (18cm) diagonal to a whopping 3m in diagonal, means information points, shop windows, and of course tablet computers like the newly announced Apple iPad are all ripe for the touching.

Although a variant of the technology has been around since 2006 and already used by companies such as Vodafone in the UK and even Cirque Du Soleil, it is the first time the company has moved to support multitouch technology rather than single finger input.

 

The previous version of the technology only supported single finger input

Like Synaptics, who offers a 10-finger multitouch screen up to 11 inches, games and education are at the forefront of the thinking as to where the technology will and can be used. 

Hoping to offer more than the Synaptic's offering, the Displax screen can be placed over curved surfaces, suggesting touchscreen globes with a Google earth software interface underneath could be making their way to a museum or classroom near you in the not too distant future.

"We expect it [the technology] to be in the high street by the end of the year", says Fonseca confidently when asked how "pie in the sky" this technology currently is.

While the main push is to be museums, high street stores and possibly military HQs, Fonseca is clearly excited by Internet tablet PCs suddenly hitting the scene. They are already working with a number of manufacturers to bring this technology to market.  

Who? Fonseca won't say, however we did get a chuckle from him when we mentioned mobile phone maker HTC, suggesting the manufacturer famed with the creation of some of the best Android handsets on the market, is working on a tablet device. The rumours and denials are already there in equal measure, however on the record, Fonseca can only say that they are working with "very intelligent manufacturers".

We will keep you posted.



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