Touch input has become almost as common as the conventional keyboard and mouse, transforming the devices we use to stay connected and bringing the long-conceptualized worlds of science fiction one step closer to reality.
Where do we go from here?
Below are five companies working on the next generation of touchscreen technology. While all have different ideas of how we’ll interact with future user interfaces, one thing is clear: the physical screen is no longer the status quo.
MUV Interactive’s ‘BIRD’
MUV Interactive, an Israeli tech firm, will soon make the beautiful, gesture-controlled technology of “Minority Report” a reality for consumers. The company’s BIRD smart ring, which hugs the pointer finger, seamlessly interacts with any projected surface. Want to turn an entire wall into a giant interactive portfolio or a desk surface into your new workspace? The BIRD makes all of this easy via a Bluetooth connection to a PC. The software is so adaptable that even aerial drones and smart appliances can be controlled using nothing but hand gestures. MUV sees its technology as eventually having a huge impact on education, business and entertainment.
Metaio’s Thermal Touch
Before it was quietly scooped up by Apple last year, German tech firm Metaio was working on groundbreaking augmented reality and touch-based thermal interaction. The technologies, integrated into something like the now-defunct Google Glass, would feature a thermal camera working in conjunction with a standard camera. Input from a user’s finger would be recorded based on the heat signatures left behind by their touch. “Children could bring play to new levels and launch digital content directly from their toys, [and] service technicians could pull up information just by touching an object in real life,” the company said in a blog post. While the thermal touch tech is still years off, the company’s patented “Augmented Reality Engine” has already created impressive interactive experiences for companies like IKEA and Ferrari.
Thalamic Lab’s Myo Gesture Control
Launched late last year, the Myo from Canadian firm Thalamic Labs is a perfect example of where gesture control will take us. The device, which slips onto your forearm like an oversized bracelet, analyzes arm gestures for use in presentations, design, entertainment and more. Want to turn up the volume on the Beach Boys? Just turn your wrist to the right. Move forward to the next slide in a PowerPoint? Tap your thumb and forefinger together twice. Thalamic Labs is so confident in the versatility of its device that it’s also released developer SDKs to empower users (and maybe the next Tony Stark) to come up with new ways to take advantage of the technology.
Sony’s Xperia Projector Concept
Earlier last week at the Mobile World Congress event in Spain, Sony unveiled a new projector that turns any flat surface into an interactive tablet. Called the “Xperia Projector Concept,” the device doesn’t require a user to employ anything more than their fingers to swipe, zoom and interact with the objects displayed. It’s also fully autonomous (meaning you won’t need a computer to run it) and is designed to be wireless and portable. While the Japanese tech giant was tight-lipped on any additional details regarding the Xperia (and when it might actually reach market), plenty of journalists have already heaped praise on its potential.
Elliptical Labs Ultrasound Control
Norwegian startup Elliptical Labs is sidestepping the optical and infrared sensors of its competitors in favor of ultrasound. Similar to the way bats use echolocation to navigate in total darkness, Elliptical Labs’ software uses sound waves, microphones and transducers to sense or detect movement.
Not only is the technology easy to implement in everything from smartphones to smart appliances, it also uses 95 percent less power than conventional sensors and can operate in low-light conditions.
“It’s like using the force to make things do stuff for you,” the company recently stated.