MIT researchers unveiled a cheap, portable touchscreen device at this week’s Technology, Entertainment, and Design conference in Long Beach, Calif. MIT’s Fluid Interface’s group built the "sixth sense" device from about $300 worth of store-bought parts. It can turn any surface into a touchscreen. The wearable device is made of a webcam, smartphone, mirrors, and projector. Colored finger caps which are read by the webcam complete the ensemble. Augmented reality devices bring the information of the Internet to the physical world, usually with a smartphone as interface. The MIT device differs from other augmented reality apps that we’ve seen in that it can turn any surface into a touchscreen, thereby melding two emerging paradigms.

"Other than letting some of you live out your fantasy of looking as cool as Tom Cruise in 'Minority Report' it can really let you connect as a sixth sense device with whatever is in front of you," said MIT researcher Patty Maes, who demoed the device at TED.

Users interact with the device via hand gestures, which are read by the webcam, making a watch by circling their fingers on their wrist, or taking photos by making the L7 sign with thumb and forefingers.

It’s touchscreen computing without the screen. If this technology ends up working and selling, it could accelerate the adoption of touchscreen technology years ahead of where it is now, which is expensive.

Moore’s Law won’t touch Microsoft’s Surface for quite a while, but if this cheap, diy MIT gadget proves successful, the mainstream touchscreen could be right around the corner.

(source photo)

By Mark Alvarez