Scientists discover a DiamondTouch

Scientists in Massachusetts have developed an interactive computer display that can identify, track and differentiate between multiple users.

Scientists discover a DiamondTouch

The DiamondTouch system, developed by Mitsubishi Electric Research, comprises a touch sensitive screen and a receiver located in a chair. A computer sends unique signals to each part of the screen and when the screen is touched those signals pass harmlessly through the toucher’s body to the receiver. The computer can then tell exactly who is using it, allowing it to make preset adjustments to the individual user’s requirements.

It is also capable of processing more than one touched area at a time, and more than one simultaneous user.

‘Most touch screens only permit one touch at a time,’ said Paul Dietz, a researcher in the Mitsubishi labs. ‘A much smaller number allow multiple, simultaneous touches, but none of these can tell you who is touching where.’

The researchers believe that the system could be put to use in many ways, chiefly because of what it can stop rather than what it can enable. Because it can identify individual users, it could be used to prevent unauthorised access to systems.

One example given by the researchers is in-car systems, where it could be used to let a passenger, but not a driver, access its navigation or entertainment systems when the car is in motion to prevent drivers from becoming distracted. Similarly it could restrict access to aircraft controls.

‘The key point of DiamondTouch controls is identity,’ Dietz said. ‘If the controls know who is operating them, they can behave appropriately.’

Practical and security implementations aside, the technology will also appeal to games developers, a prospect which has not escaped the researchers, who have begun testing games including Warcraft III and The Sims.

‘Our behavioural foundations show that allowing people to monitor the digital surface, gesture and speech acts of collaborators, produces an engaging and visceral experience for all those involved,’ they concluded in a joint report. ‘Our application of multimodal co-located input to command and control (Warcraft III) and home planning (The Sims) scenarios show that single user games can be easily repurposed for different game genres.’

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