Touch Screen Membrane? Sounds sexy.

Aside from being three sexy words when laid one after the other, the phrase “touch screen membrane” should turn you on in other ways. The mad scientists at Displax just introduced their new thinner-than-paper multitouch interface, and it looks amazing. Developed from projected capacitive technology similar to the iPhone’s, this polymer membrane is almost certainly the future of touch screen displays. On production models, it can track up to 16 distinct touch sources, measures up to three meters in diameter,  and can be applied underneath any non-conductive surface at a depth of up to 15mm (interactive mahogany anyone?).

Its touch sensitivity is astoundingly precise; a pointed breath easily elicits a reaction. This high tactile resolution stems from a grid of nanowires that are embedded within the interface.  When supplied with current, the nanowires generate an electromagnetic field that is disturbed by the presence of intruding electrons.  An integrated processor triangulates the exact position of the interaction and projects the appropriate visual effect onto the surface of the polymer.  As you can see in this image, the interface is transparent, so the angle of view is near 360º (although presumably backwards for 180º, but that doesn’t seem like a tough nut to crack).

The membrane is easily manipulated, and works perfectly on curved surfaces.  The largest production model weighs less than three-quarters of a pound.  Imagine projected capacitive multitouch clothing powered by kinetic energy.  You would become a walking, power-generating, monitor.  Maybe ten or fifteen years from now we will just download our wardrobe into one suit of this stuff, and have it display as anything we want.  Hearing me ladies (and fashionable men)?  Infinite closet?  Sounds awesome to me.  It also seems that this is the perfect candidate for optical camouflage.  Just project what is behind you on your front, and voilà, invisibility that would give the Predator a hard-on.

The applications of this sort of multitouch membrane are myriad.  As nanotechnology becomes more affordable, we will see more and more digital integration into everyday surfaces.  The potential of this technology is boundless, and it is these sorts of devices that will be the commercial drivers of tomorrow’s innovation.

Correction:  Displax manufactures the touch controller for this membrane.  It is actually called the ViP Interactive Foil and was manufactured in 2004 by a company called Visual Planet.  Correction courtesy of this revision.

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~ by Wil Finley on February 3, 2010.

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