Interactive Surface

Displax Bendable Multi-Touch Surface Technology.

I have always been fascinated with interactive wall displays. You see tons of them in places like Las Vegas, and most are controlled by either light, cameras, or a combination of these. But this got me excited after I read about it over at Pocket Lint.

Portuguese company Displax is hoping to has debuted  a new technology in Amsterdam, called projective capacitive touchscreen technology. The technology has the ability to turn virtually any surface into a touchscreen device that users can interact with.

According to Miguel Fonseca, chief business officer, “Our technology only captures touch, so you can use it anywhere”.

The substrate Displax uses is actually a polymer film which is thinner than a single sheet of paper, that when applied to glass plastic or wood turns the surface interactive.

The film features a grid of nanowires which are embedded into it. This grid is able to monitor when and where it is touched and then relay those specific co-ordinates to a control device (think computer running an application built on Flash and Air),  allowing the end-user to interact with any specific object on the screen.

“You touch, Displax measures the disturbance, it will feel where you are touching”, said Fonseca.

The substrate can actually measure quite a bit of interaction simultaneously, with current support for 16-finger multitouch on a 50-inch surface and the company is working on a future system which  support up to 65 fingers at any one time. In addition to pressure, the film can also measure airflow. This adds another dimension of interactivity to the product. End users could literally blow on the surface to interact with it. This opens up an entire array of gaming possibilities, or interactive scenarios. According to Displax wind isn’t issue because it doesn’t have enough focused energy on a single point on the surface

Where things really get interesting is that people don’t even have to touch the actual film surface for the technology to work. As long as the surface is less than 15mm thick the substrate can sit on the back side of a glass surface and still have conductivity. This would allow you to turn any glass top table, or window into an interactive surface. With this kind of technology, everything could become an interactive surface, which would seriously change the landscape for things like in-store displays, home automation systems, even personal electronics. And because it is hardware and software agnostic, you could attach it to any kind of programmed device for interaction and feedback. The Displax film, is currently available in sizes from  18cm diagonal to a full 3m in diagonal.

Varieties of this technology of the technology have been around since 2006 and are already used by companies such as Vodafone in the UK,but this marks the first time a company has developed a substrate that can support multitouch technology rather than single finger input.

Companies like Synaptics offers a 10-finger multitouch screen, but on a much smaller scale functioning up to 11 inches. And the Synaptics product is used only on flat surfaces. Hoping to bring more to the table than Synaptics, Displax’s screen can be wrapped over curved surfaces, allowing for products like a touchscreen globe with Google earth software powering the interaction, or curved interactive walls that offer a unique interactive experience with architectural surfaces.

Displax is expecting moderate deployment of the technology in Europe by the end of the year, and as it becomes seen more, greater penetration of the next 5.

While the main push is to be educational venus like museums, high-end store fronts and possibly the military are optimal spaces for Displax to play. In addition, with the introduction of so many tablet PC’s at CES this year this kind of technology will probably have huge gains in the consumer electronics market as well.  Be sure and check out the video on Vimeo of this stuff in action.