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Thermal Camera Turns Many Things Into Interactive Surfaces

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Metaios Thermal Touch prototype.

Metaios Thermal Touch prototype uses a thermal camera to sense touch and a regular digital camera to track where the touch occurred, allowing many objects to serve as interactive touch surfaces.

Credit: Technology Review

The traces of heat left behind when someone touches something could potentially be used for interacting with wearable computers. The augmented reality company Metaio is developing technology called Thermal Touch that could enable people to use all kinds of objects--walls, books, and perhaps even toys--as interactive touch surfaces.

Thermal Touch combines a thermal camera that detects the residual heat from a touch with another camera that registers visible light to determine the location of the object being touched, enabling Metaio's software to map that touch on the object in three dimensions.

Both cameras are combined in a device called the Optris PI 200 that Metaio's Daniel Kurz straps to a computer or a tablet to test the technology. Kurz hopes thermal cameras will make their way into smartphones and wearable computers in the near future.

He says the technology can work across a range of temperatures, as long as the surface being touched is either hotter or colder than the person's body. Kurz also says Thermal Touch will work on many surfaces--with the exception of metal--assuming they have features or patterns that can be tracked.

From Technology Review
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