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Scientists Discover Way to Make Anything a Touchscreen

The idea of a portable, impressively useful touchscreen interface has very quickly gone from the world of science fiction to depictions of dubious accuracy on mainstream shows like NCIS or CSI. The consumer, alas, has had to make due with smaller touchscreen interfaces on our phones and tablets and giant, spy-catching rigs aren't coming to us anytime soon, but if scientists at the Carnegie Mellon Human Computer Interaction Institute have anything to say about it, we might soon get the next best thing. In a joint project with Microsoft, they've created a unique technology that allows a functional multi-touch screen to be displayed on almost any surface, including the body.

The product, blessed with the incredible name 'Omnitouch' uses a picoprojector and a short range depth camera for taking 3D images (similar to a Microsoft Kinect) to project images with full multi-touch functionality onto whatever surface the user desires. The system is worn on the shoulder, and because it requires no 'calibration, training or instrumentation of the environment' beyond that equipment, it should be accessible nearly anywhere. Of course even that kind of portability is pretty bulky, but as Omnitouch is at the moment more proof of concept than anything else, it's likely to get a whole lot smaller by the time a consumer version is rolled out. We'll be holding out for a version mounted inside one's glasses.

A couple of videos explaining how Omnitouch works in greater detail have been posted to YouTube. Here is a general overview, good for less tech-minded people interested in living in a Star Trek world faster than we thought possible: