‘Magic Finger’ Turns Any Surface Into a Touchscreen
A thimble-like device that turns any surface into a touch interface could let users control devices or bring up content without the need for a screen.
Developed by engineers at Canada's University of Alberta and Autodesk research, the so-called "Magic Finger" device is worn on the fingertip using an adjustable Velcro ring and uses an optical mouse sensor to interact with different surfaces.
"With Magic Finger, we instrument the user’s finger itself, rather than the surface it is touching," the researchers write on their website.
An integrated micro camera on the device can be used to read miniature "matrix codes" — similar to QR codes — and allows it to differentiate between surfaces. For example, the Magic Finger can distinguish between gestures made on cloth and ones made on paper.
This opens the door to some interesting interaction possibilities, the researchers say, and they provide some examples in a video.
For instance, imagine "a user is reading a magazine on the way to work and he sees an advertisement for his dream car. He taps the [matrix code in the magazine] to retrieve the URL, and then taps the logo of his t-shirt to store the URL for later."
Another scenario might be that you're in a meeting and you receive a Skype call to the tablet device that is in your bag. Using the Magic Finger, you could simply touch the bag to mute the tablet.
The research team, led by University of Alberta computer scientist Xing-Dong Yang, presented their Magic Finger device at the annual UIST Conference in Cambridge, Mass. earlier this month.