A touch interface is common for small, flat surfaces such as smartphone or tablet screens. Now, CMU researchers have now developed a technology to turn surfaces of a wide variety of shapes and sizes into touchpads. The technology is so simple that it uses spray paint to convert any surface into a touchpad.

Technology To Convert Any Surface Into A Touchpad Using Spray Paint
Image Credit: CMU

Scientists named this technology as Electrick. It holds the potential to turn any wall, furniture, steering wheels and even toys into touch sensors. The user just needs to apply any electrically conductive coatings or materials on the objects or surfaces.

During the experiment, researchers showed how they could use an electric field tomography to sense the position of a finger touch. For that purpose, they used electrodes and attached them sequentially to the conductive materials.

Technology To Convert Any Surface Into A Touchpad Using Spray Paint
Image Credit: CMU

Scientists did experiment with a steering wheel and the surface of a guitar, among others. They used a field called electric field tomography to sequentially run small amounts of current through the electrodes in pairs and noting any voltage differences.

Assistant professor, Chris Harrison said, “For the first time, we’ve been able to take a can of spray paint and put a touch screen on almost anything.”

Image Credit: CMU
Image Credit: CMU

Currently available large touch interfaces are expensive and irregularly shaped. Additionally, the flexible touch interfaces are being used in labs only. Even, some methods depend on computer vision, which can be disrupted if a camera’s view of a surface is blocked.

Unlike such interfaces, the Electrick works slightly different. It can be created by applying conductive paints, bulk plastics or carbon-loaded films, among other materials. It actually depends on the shunting effect. That means, when a finger touches the touchpad, it shunts a bit of electric current to ground.