Vibration Sensors Making Any Surface an Interactive Platform

By Kal Kaur

Imagine being able to touch any surface, whether it’s made out of wood, plastic, metal, or glass to find that, with one touch, it can be transformed into an interactive platform.

Well, researchers at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have created a prototype system that can work on wood, aluminium, steel, glass and plastic…and now this team wants to take this technology to the mass market by commercializing it.

Commonly, you will find that touch screen technology is controlled by the application of cameras. However, at NTU, researchers are placing focus on vibration sensors particularly Speech Touch and Acoustic Tangible Interfaces (STATINA).

Tangible acoustic interfaces for identifying interaction are based on acoustic holography and time delay of arrival (TDOA).

Acoustic holography is an active mode principle that detects interaction on acoustic energy that is captured from the contact points where one may touch a surface.

One example of tangible user interface using optical pressure sensing comes from The Media Informatics and Human-Computer Interaction Groups of the Department of Informatics of the University of Munich:

Video courtesy of Media Informatics Munich.

With TDOA, interactions are detected based on analyzing acoustic vibrations generated by moving a finger along the surface of an object. The technology developed by the team at NTU is based on vibrations that are generated and travel in a rippling fashion to hit the sensors measuring this tactile interaction.

Tactile interaction gives off vibrations that travel along the surface of the object that has been touched which is then delivered to contact sensors (piezoelectric sensors or microphones). Calculation of the difference in the length of time it takes for the vibration to hit the contact sensor gives a measurement of exactly where the surface of an object has been touched.

The technology is promising as it could become key in transforming interactive electronic products on the market by enhancing ease of use for the customer. This platform will most definitely become a popular alternative as an interactive system based on the potential to generate masses of information from acoustic signals.

The technology may need to refine characterization and reduce the effects of ambient noise to enhance the capabilities of this platform for greater human-machine interaction.

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Date Added: Jul 12, 2013 | Updated: Jun 25, 2014
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