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Displays Input Devices Hardware Technology

Membrane That Turns Any Surface Into a Touchscreen 111

Posted by timothy
from the wasn't-picking-my-nose dept.
alx5000 writes "Engadget has a story about Displax Interactive Systems, a Portuguese company that has created a new polymer film that, when stuck onto a surface, converts it into a multitouch touchscreen with up to 16 contact points. The article states that 'if all goes well, the first Displax-enabled wares will start shipping this July.'"
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Membrane That Turns Any Surface Into a Touchscreen

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  • MC Hammer (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @09:55AM (#31009052)

    Oh no, they proved MC Hammer wrong!

  • Obligatory (Score:3, Funny)

    by Pojut (1027544) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @09:56AM (#31009056) Homepage

    Think of the pr0n possibilities!

    Japanese sexbots + touchscreen membrane = teh sex

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by tippe (1136385)

      From TFA:

      As the story goes, an array of nanowires embedded in the film recognizes your digits or pointed breath [...]

      Except that I read "pointed breasts" ;-) [1]

      Ah, how the mind has a way of making things up before you've had your first morning coffee...

      [1] Presumably up to 16 of them. Now that's a party I'd like to be invited to (but probably never will)

    • by flyneye (84093)

      Think of the portable computing and condom industries.
      You can [blank] to your favorite [blank] with a broadband connection and not get messy with [blank] while controlling it with your crank.

    • You make an interesting point, if not necessarily for sexbots...

      Think of the Star Trek movie First Contact where Data gets feeling on his arm from the Borg - image what a difference this could make to a robot?!

      Imagine not only touch sensitive fingers, but the ability to detect wind, or feel past objects such as trees or guage the movement of a crowd. For a robot that's pretty cool.

      This has big implications for the robot industry. They shouldn't look like us [wikipedia.org], but they should be as functionally similar to u

  • by oodaloop (1229816) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @09:59AM (#31009086)
    Oh great, so I can use all my fingers...elbows...uh, my nose...tongue?...WTF?
    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by AP31R0N (723649)

      17 if you're a dude.

      (side note: atheist is not a proper noun, so it should be capitalized only when it's the first word of a sentence or part of a book title) /atheist

    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      I know a gun-carrying environmentalist linux friendly atheist... He was never a marine though.
    • by xupere (1680472)
      16 contact points ought to be enough for anybody. No one will need more than 16 contact points for multi-touch input.
  • 16 contact points, as in 4 x 4? That's only slightly useful for kiosks, etc, not much for general interactivity.
    • Re:4 x 4? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Canazza (1428553) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @10:04AM (#31009130)

      16 contact points as in 16 fingers at once, not 16 'buttons'

      • by Aeros (668253)
        cool I've been looking for something where I can use all 16 of my finger simultaneously.
        • by luder (923306) *

          The idea is to have the possibility of more than one person using the same screen at the same time.

          • Or you could use the extra capacity for touch points to place objects on the screen: 3 contact points at a certain distance apart could be recognized as a "pointer object" that could be used...uh, I can't think of anything that might actually require this, but it could be done.

          • by drkim (1559875)
            Oh...
            Well, I'll put my socks back on then...
      • .... iOuija....

      • by ukemike (956477)
        16 contact points!?! my god I'm a man so I could use 11, but 16!?! wtf would someone do w/ 16!
      • by GeckoX (259575)

        Not convinced that that is the case. On first read, that is what I thought too...but they are not very clear and after reading it again I'm inclined to think they actually mean that it can currently only recognize 16 interactive zones.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @10:02AM (#31009116)

    The usefulness of touchscreens is truly overrated.

    I used to work at a pizza chain where we had to ring in orders using a touchscreen. They were the biggest pieces of shit ever. It'd take five or six taps to perform any action.

    Just last week I was at the airport, and ran into the same problem using a much more modern ticket printer station that used a touchscreen.

    I can't help but be very skeptical about this technology, given how poorly existing touchscreens work. And those existing touchscreens are just basic rectangles, in very predictable and controlled environments.

    • by Pojut (1027544) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @10:08AM (#31009182) Homepage

      It's not that they don't work, it's that they aren't maintained.

      Take a look at one of the many all-in-one PCs out there with touchscreens. Hell, just look at an iPhone. They work pretty well. Now look at the touchscreen at the airport. This is a device that is touched by hundreds if not thousands of different people a day. That much constant use is going to require a lot of maintenance.

      Don't blame the touchscreen, blame the fact that they aren't maintained given their high rate of use.

      • by Canazza (1428553) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @10:13AM (#31009240)

        one that can be taken off and replaced constantly without replacing the entire machine (or atleast a significant part, IE the whole display unit) would lower maintainence costs. This will likely be welcomed with open arms :)

        • i would rather use a mouse that "just works" than a touch screen that i had to bring in for regular maintenance.
          • by Pojut (1027544)

            For personal use touchscreens, wiping down the surface with a distilled-water-based cleaner should be good enough. The only touchscreens that require actual maintence beyond cleaning are the ones used by the public.

          • by nedlohs (1335013)

            you really think if you had to use a mouse on an airport check-in machine that that mouse would "just work"?

      • by mikael_j (106439) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @10:20AM (#31009318)

        It probably doesn't help that any touchscreen placed somewhere where the general public has access to it will be subjected to vandalism and stupidity in the form of people pouring liquids on it, banging on it and (in the case of stupidity) trying to jab it really really hard without checking if it's possible to, you know, just touch it lightly.

        As for the parent's comment about cash registers I'm willing to bet quite a few coworkers took out their frustrations with customers, the cash registers themselves and management on the cash registers (when I worked in tech support I had a co-worker who went through several mice per month since he would vent his anger by hitting his mouse with a closed fist, doesn't take long for a mouse to fall apart under those conditions).

        /Mikael

      • Used to support lotto machines(i.e. Powerball) that used touch screens. It would throw the calibration off if foreign matter such as crumbs or whatnot would get into the crack where the bevel would meet the screen. Like just about everything in life, if it is taken care off, it works great. Otherwise, it goes haywire
      • by AlecC (512609)

        I think you are comparing different technologies. The touchscreens of a few years ago were, I agree, total rubbish. But they were basically single point touchscreens with very crude technology. The multitouch screens, as used on the iPhone and iPad, are qualitatively in a different league. Instead of simple hardware recognisers, they use sophisticated software to work out what you are doing. If you haven't tried one of those, you have not seen what such screens can do.

      • by EvilIdler (21087)

        Some touch screens are pressure sensitive, others are contact sensitive (like the iPhone). That's why there is such a huge difference. I would assume this layer isn't pressure sensitive, as that would need some sort of mechanism BEHIND a soft screen.

    • Touchscreens are useful for certain situations. It's like the use of Flash on webpages. There is a time and a place for Flash (youtube wouldn't have been half as good without it, for example) but when most of the Flash you see is annoying banner ads, entire websites made of Flash or 5-minute unskippable intros for sites with no real content then you start wanting to reject it completely.

      (cue comments about Flash security risk blah blah blah...Hopefully you get my point.)

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by jacktherobot (1538645)
      most of the touch screens used in point of sale (i.e. cash register) applications are old resistive touch films. This tech suffers from the drawback that in order for the resistance of the film to change you have to physically deform it to register a touch. This opens you up to all kinds of mechanical fatigue problems like the one you're talking about. Capacative touch systems (like the iphone) which work by sensing the proximity of your finger electrically don't have this problem. The material in the a
    • by BlackBloq (702158)
      Wow you are off base on this one sorry! Proof positive... the Nintendo DS! Kids beat the crap out and tap, scape and probably bite. They take one hella beating! They last longer then a controller with buttons. True dat!
    • Try reading the article and their web site.

      I used to work at a pizza chain where we had to ring in orders using a touchscreen.

      Most touch screens for data entry are layers on top of the glass. This is capacitive, and can go under the glass. If it were under the glass, you'd have a much harder time wearing it out than if it were a simple touch screen like the type they use at Pizza Hut.

      Personally, I was disappointed that they wanted contact information, and gave zero information on where to obtain engineering samples, since I's really like a 27" touch screen iMac (my iPhone has already go

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @10:07AM (#31009174) Journal
    You've been able to get membranes that could be put on normal screens and make them touchscreens for a long time. I remember a school where my mother worked got some in the mid '90s and put them on monitors. A bit later there were companies advertising them for putting on laptops, with a serial adaptor so you got something that looked like a serial mouse to Windows 3.11 but was a touch screen. The news here is that they now support multitouch.
  • I mean really, this doesn't produce any image at all. Yes, you can put it over a monitor of some kind, but if you stick it on any other surface, it's not a touchscreen but a touchpad.
  • Finally! (Score:5, Funny)

    by wonkavader (605434) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @10:43AM (#31009566)

    Finally, I can turn my life-size colonel Sanders cut-out into a data entry device.

  • Applications (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LaminatorX (410794) <sabotage@NOspAM.praecantator.com> on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @11:00AM (#31009816) Homepage

    Is it good or bad that my first thought was to make a multi-touch battle mat for wargaming?

    • Yeah, but you only get a 16 squad total battle at 8 squads per army army on a 120" diagonal play mat... But I hear ya. :-)
    • I suppose it's a bit better than thinking, "Now I can play DDR anywhere!"

      I'm sure we'd all be interested in hearing more of your thoughts on this matter. It seems like this subject would be right up your alley.
  • It puts the polymer on its skin or it gets the hose again!
  • does it actually have a visual display? Am I missing something? This turns surfaces into multi-touch inputs, but does it actually turn into a display device as well? What is the point of placing this film "over a wood surface" if you can't see what the hell you're actually dong?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Emb3rz (1210286)

      Reasons you would place a touch-sensitive device onto a static surface:

      • Identification of features (educational purposes)
      • Plotting (the vector kind, not the muhahaha kind)
      • Security interface?

      And there are plenty of other things you could use it for.. this is just a starter list. :)

    • by srmalloy (263556)

      Take an appropriately-shaped block of wood, screen-print a keyboard layout on it, put the film on top, and you have a keyboard with no moving parts.

      More generally, since this is being described as something you can put over an existing display (and therefore must be transparent), you can make a programmable keypad device where the touch-surface film is on a transparent plate, under which can be slid a template laying out what the 'buttons' are; because you would be able to define the position and dimensions

    • by drkim (1559875)
      yeah that would be as bad as using a mouse... :)
  • ATM's (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hAckz0r (989977) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @11:38AM (#31010332)
    With the rash of card skimmers being placed on ATM's I have to wonder just how long it will be before someone "overlays" an ATM's console to grab pin numbers too. These days it pays to be observant of minor differences in hardware because these creeps are getting more and more sophisticated with microelectronics and wireless transceivers. I think it won't be long before someone puts this technology to use in some diabolical and illegal manor.
    • by kowala (1707988)
      I think it's only a matter of time until pickpockets spray touch screen membrane on people's hands while they are distracted. This would open the door to a new type of keylogging/finger logging
  • by wowbagger (69688) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @11:43AM (#31010388) Homepage Journal

    I've been trying to find touchscreens to incorporate into an embedded system, and few of the touchscreen vendors have drivers for anything other than Windows - as such they get eliminated from my consideration.

    I've just check Displax's site, and a search for "linux" gives no hits - so either:
    a) They are just doing the actual sensing system, and letting somebody else build the actual interface chips
    or
    b) They only support Windows.

    Which makes them a non-starter in my line of work.

    • http://www.displax.com/en/products/families/overlay.html [displax.com] has linux in text, so it appears their search sucks.

      It's a different product, but at least it seems to indicate they do have some linux support. Their press release doesn't seem to indicate any OS (google maps, social networking, display photos, all of which can be done in any OS.) though, so I guess you'll have to check back later.

      Also, a search around the internet gets you some news that say it can work with e-ink and oled, and since most (a
    • by MobyDisk (75490)

      Why do those devices require drivers? They should just act like a mouse.

      I work on an embedded medical device and we use Elo touch screens (www.elotouch.com). Technically, the devices don't require drivers at all - just plug-into USB or serial. You do need the drivers if you want to run the calibration, or use any of the fancy features.

      • by wowbagger (69688)

        "I work on an embedded medical device and we use Elo touch screens (www.elotouch.com). Technically, the devices don't require drivers at all - just plug-into USB or serial. You do need the drivers if you want to run the calibration, or use any of the fancy features."

        Considering that without calibration, where you touch won't match AT ALL where the system thinks you are touching, thus voiding most of the utility of a touchscreen, I think drivers are somewhat important.

        Moreover, I have seen too many touchscre

        • by MobyDisk (75490)

          Considering that without calibration, where you touch won't match AT ALL where the system thinks you are touching, t

          That is not correct.

          The amount of calibration varies based on on what touch-screen technology you are using. But today, the screens come pre-calibrated out of the factory. We don't need to recalibrate. In theory, you might have to if the humidity or temperature changes significantly. Or if you rotate the display.

          Our embedded devices run on vxworks, and Elo does not provide vxworks drivers. So our manufacturing group calibrates the monitors in-house when the device is assembled. The users do not have t

  • ...to my 62" QuadHD monitor with input so I can mark up architectural prints, full size, on my screen (placed flat /sloped like a drafting table, of course)

  • I don't get it. This is old stuff. I tried such a membrane at CeBit [cebit.de] in Hannover almost two years ago. It was made by a Japanese firm and could register "only" four concurrent touchpoints, but it is still very similar to this.

    It was delivered as a thin plastic film in a black plastic frame about one inch wide all around and with a USB cable sticking out the lower left corner. They had sizes for 32, 37, 40, 42 and 50 inch LCD/plasma screens and showcased two 42 inch screens running Vista at their booth.

    I
  • I've been wanting to build a multitouch table, but I haven't been able to afford a high-resolution projector and a pair of high-res video cameras. I do, however, have a fairly sizable LCD television. All I need now is a way to bring the television level, and a layer of glass over the display so that I can press on it without damaging the display.

  • I'm confused why this is new. Resistive touch screens have always been a polymer surface that could be attached to anything. For example:
    http://www.elotouch.com/Technologies/AccuTouch/howitworks.asp [elotouch.com]

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