Touchscreens are the future of technology interaction, and surely they are moving on from the realms of smartphones and tablets to everything around us. Scientists from Carnegie Mellon University’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute are certainly helping the trend catch on as they have invented conductive spray paint that can make any object touch-friendly!
Touch screens usually work by detecting the disruption of the charge on their surface. When we touch it with our finger, they detect the outflow of the charge and thus, respond to our movement. The same principle is applied in this experimental technology, called Electrick. The difficulty in making every object work like a touchscreen is the lack of electrical charge on them. This is where Electrick comes in as it uses a coat of conductive spray paint that allows them to conduct electricity.
This charge is not enough to shock you, but large enough for a series of electrodes to detect a change when a finger makes contact as it re-routes some of that current to the ground. Electrick uses a carbon conductive aerosol paint that doesn’t allow static buildup or blocks radio frequency signals in sensitive electronics. Electrick employs a technique called electric field tomography and sends an electrical charge using just two of the electrodes at a time and uses rest of the electrodes to detect the touch.
The technique is not as accurate as a smartphone’s touchscreen, but the researchers say they can calculate the location of the touch with an accuracy of about one centimeter. The spray also takes away the flat surface requirement as Carnegie Mellon researchers made all sorts of objects touch sensitive like a four-by-eight-foot sheet of drywall and even a jiggly plate of Jell-O made into a human brain.
You can read more about the technology in this paper.