Touchscreen technology isn’t new, and probably isn’t going to blow anyone way considering some of the technologies that have popped up as of late. But if I were to tell you that a Japanese university has developed a prototype of a system that can turn the liquid surface of your bath into a touchscreen – would that grab your attention?
Researchers at Koike Laboratory at Tokyo’s University of Electro-Communications have developed a display system that they are calling the AquaTop Display, which turns water into a touch-pad display using a projector, an Xbox Kinect 3D depth camera, a waterproof speaker, and a 600mm x 900mm x 250mm square plastic water tank.
Images are projected onto the surface of the water, which is made opaque with bath salts in order to provide better contrast and reflect the infrared light emitted by a Kinect camera. The Kinect tracks the position of the fingers, whether they are above the surface, touching the surface, or poking out from beneath the surface. The waterproof speaker is attached to the bottom of the square water tank to enhance gaming and video playback capabilities, and all three components are connected with a master control PC.
The system allows users to drag photos with one finger, change the size of a photo with two fingers, and delete photos with three fingers. It also allows the user to watch a movie or view photos by scooping the icon on the surface of the water. With this capability, a user could splash or create a wave and watch icons (or photos, videos), disappear with the wave. Users can also sink an application into the water to delete it.
Plans for commercialization of the AquaTop are not mentioned on the website, but I think the major point here may be to illustrate the capabilities and potential of the Kinect and various user interfaces that it may create.