Objects Such as Door Knobs and Wall Panels Could Be Made Smart
Imagine if when you reached to open a door, the knob would recognize you and unlock the door without you having to provide a key. Or what if your Smartphone could figure out from the way you’re holding it to adjust the volume automatically. These are the kinds of things researchers at Carnegie Mellon University are working on. In a recent press release, they announced Touché, a new kind of sensing technology that is being developed at the university in conjunction with Disney research. Their combined goal is nothing short of developing a new paradigm for touch sensitive objects.
In the press release the research team at Carnegie Mellon describe how research by a variety of groups in recent years has led to advances in capacitive signals across a broad range of frequencies in a wide range of materials. In essence, they write, the technology is very similar to that used in other touch devices such as phones and tablet computers. But it’s different too, the researchers at Disney say, because the goal is different. In one environment, users are manipulating a device to receive information, text files, video, etc. In the new paradigm, the user is sending the information to the device which then responds in “smart” ways.
With Touché, the researchers say, information is obtained by embedding electronic signals in everyday materials, such as metal in a doorknob or the glass in a mirror. Those signals are then sent to small embedded independent processors that take actions that a user would like to have happen; changing to soft lighting when applying makeup, versus harsher lighting for examining teeth during flossing, for example. All things that make life a little easier for people, or that offer a more pleasurable experience, such as recognizing the touch of an individual on a stereo console to access preset parameters that uniquely suit the taste of the person who wishes to listen to some music.
It’s not science fiction, Disney researchers say, Touché exists and works in the lab right now. Thus far, the only hurdles to mass production are costs. How many people would be willing to spend an extra ten, fifteen or even twenty dollars on a doorknob just to make it smart to the touch?
Those at Carnegie Mellon say the trick is to spread the costs over a complete system. Instead of making each object individually smart, why not just embed sensors that talk wirelessly to a central processor, the way the human body works.
That might yet happen, at least for upscale homes. Disney plans to advertise the concept at its theme parks and for those that are interested, to install the new technology as soon as possible.…