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A Better, Cheaper Multitouch Interface

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NYU Professor Ken Perlin


New York University (NYU) researchers are developing Inexpensive Multi-Touch Pressure Acquisition Devices (IMPAD), multitouch technology that can be controlled by both fingers and objects such as a stylus. "One of the problems that's been endemic to multitouch sensors is . . . you're either touching it or not touching it," says NYU professor Ken Perlin (pictured). "A significant amount of potentially useful information is thrown away because the sensor isn't capturing the subtleties."

 IMPAD touch technology measures a change in electrical resistance when a person or object applies pressure to a specially designed pad. IMPAD can be made paper-thin and small enough for mobile devices or large enough to use on a table or wall. The pressure-sensitive touch pad can determine how hard the user is pressing. 

The researchers say the pressure-sensitive pad can be used for virtual sculpting and painting applications, and as a simulated computer mouse with right and left clicks and drags, as well as for musical instruments such as a piano keyboard. The pad consists of two plastic paper-sized sheets, with parallel lines of electrodes spaced a quarter inch apart. The sheets are arranged so the electrodes cross, creating a grid in which each intersection acts as a pressure sensor. Both sheets are covered with a layer of force sensitive resistor ink, which is used on electric drums and keyboards and has microscopic bumps on the surface. The bumps move together and touch, conducting electricity. The researchers will present IMPAD at ACM's Computer Human Interaction conference, which takes place April 4-9 in Boston.

From Technology Review
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