OmniTouch – Make your own Multi-Touch World

Chris Harrison, a PhD student in Human-Computer Interaction at Carnegie Mellon University, is full of interesting interface ideas. One of his latest projects is called OmniTouch, whose prototype design uses a shoulder-worn, depth-sensing camera/projector to create interactive “touchscreens” on anything from a nearby wall to your own forearm.

The technology is amazing: OmniTouch’s screenless interface can distinguish between a touch and a “click” (i.e., a command to do something), auto-detect the size of the interface surface (e.g., it will project a short strip onto your arm, but a large rectangle onto the wall), and even recognize the orientation of the image in 3-D space (if you tilt your screen-hand toward yourself, it will consider it “private”; a more flat orientation will be deemed “public”). But oh, that rig–are normal people really going to be walking around someday with shoulder mounted screen-guns like the Predator?

Maybe advances in microlensing technology and computational photography will allow entire flexible surfaces to function as cheap, disposable camera/projectors, so worrying about whether your OmniTouch-like device is “pointed” correctly will be moot. But that’s a long way off, and this kind of sci-fi-ized interaction seems more suited to specialty applications (warfighting? EMTs?) than mainstream adoption. That said, Harrison and his cohorts are the ones who will be building the future of human-computer interaction, not armchair observers like me–so whatever he’s working on is worth taking seriously.

About Faisal Ebrahim