Is OmniTouch Microsoft’s Next Kinect Moment?

Microsoft  has a knack for showing off some pretty interesting technology. Some of it is kind of on the WTH! are they thinking” side; but then come things like Kinect, which has taken off in ways that I don’t think even Microsoft foresaw.

Following the Kinect line of innovation instead of the PocketTouch ridiculousness, Microsoft showed off something called OmniTouch; which is a technology that will turn any surface into a touch computing surface. This technology is coming out via Microsoft Research where one of its co-developers Hrvoje Benko said the idea was to “capitalize on the tremendous surface area the real world provides”.

“The surface area of one hand alone exceeds that of typical smart phones. Tables are an order of magnitude larger than a tablet computer. If we could appropriate these ad hoc surfaces in an on-demand way, we could deliver all of the benefits of mobility while expanding the user’s interactive capability.”

The prototype is a wearable combination of a laser-based pico projector and a depth sensing camera, which is an advanced custom prototype provide by PrimeSense; a name you should recognize from Kinect.

“This custom camera works on a similar principle to Kinect,” Benko says, “but it is modified to work at short range. This camera and projector combination simplified our work because the camera reports depth in world coordinates, which are used when modeling a particular graphical world; the laser-based projector delivers an image that is always in focus, so didn’t need to calibrate for focus.”


[Cross-posted at Winextra]