In Japan, a team of engineers have created ‘AquaTop’, a project with its own operating system that turns an ordinary body of water into a touchscreen interface.
There are plenty of gadgets that employ touchscreen technology nowadays. Not only do many of our smartphones and tablets include some kind of touch based interface, but even our fridges, our cars and our video game controllers let us interact using our fingertips. This is usually rather expensive as touch enabled glass and surfaces, along with the technology that powers it, don’t come cheap, nor does protecting those surfaces from the scratches that can stop them from working. However, a new project from Japan, called ‘AquaTop’ is a solution to these issues, using motion control and some intelligent programming to make touchscreens out of water.
AquaTop is made up in part by a vat of water (which has a powder added to it to make it opaque) and Kinect, the camera system used with Microsoft’s Xbox 360 games console to allow motion control based gaming. What’s key to making AquaTop work is that with touchscreens such as the Apple iPad or the touchscreen on your phone, no depth is available, as the glass surfaces of those devices don’t allow you to put your hand through them, unlike with water. One of the researchers who created the project, at the University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo had this to say, “This type of interaction is not capable with current impenetrable, rigid body, flat surfaces.” however, with the Kinect’s depth sensor, all of this is possible.
The features that AquaTop allows you to do as a result are incredibly interesting. While simple tasks as reading emails or using spreadsheets are both capable, the real promise is in the fact that AquaTop lets you watch movies, look at photos or play games. In their demonstration, the team of engineers showed that you can scoop water to communicate that you wish to drag an image, before releasing the water to drop it and the recognised gestures also allow you to delete things by sinking a hand into the water. As for gaming, they also showed off a game that let you shoot targets by manoeuvring artillery via gestures and shooting them by putting your palms together.
You can watch a video of AquaTop in action below.
AquaTop is currently a prototype but we’ll keep you posted once we know more.
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