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Projected interfaces make touchscreens so 2008

Evan Wade / May 7, 2013


Everyone remembers the moment they unboxed their first smartphone, fired that sucker up and realized they’d lived long enough to see the actual future. Today, people roll their eyes if a new device’s interface has the audacity to use square app icons. But in 2008, touchscreens were enough to put jaws on the floor.

So yeah, you weren’t quite living in the future then. That’s OK though because you’re totally living there now. Just look at this. It’s called an OmniTouch wearable projection system, and there’s a good chance the tech behind it will eventually change your life as much as your smartphone did. If the various bits of hardware inside your phone (think cameras and tilt sensors and the like) make it versatile, something like this could be described as limitless in a very literal sense — especially since it turns any surface into an interface. OmniTouch may not be ready for the prime time yet, but it’s close, and that’s an exciting prospect for anyone who views technology as more than a simple tool.

Lots of form, not much function (yet)

At this point it’s easy to see when a technology — even one as cool as this — isn’t quite ready for the limelight. The considerable “wow” factor in the video linked above comes with a definite pre-alpha vibe. That’s before considering the fact that the hardware looks like a shoulder-mounted rocket launcher. There’s no doubt projection interfacing has its place in the future of personal area networks. It’s just going to take a while for stuff like this and Google Glass to converge.

What’s available now?

OmniTouch is not the only projected touch interface out there. In fact, you can go buy a few different (and, admittedly, less advanced) takes on the idea if that’s what your heart desires. Projected keyboards are probably the simplest practical application, which makes them the top candidate to go standard on smart devices. Even that kind of integration appears to be a while off, however, since we have yet to see a phone featuring the tech. The closest thing we have is a middling Samsung phone that only covers the “projected” part of “projected interface.”

What’s to come?

Smart devices are all about integration. Remove the limitations inherent to a physical format — like having to stay in one shape and all — and things begin to get exciting. What if your phone could display a holographic image of your stored media or turn into a full dashboard HUD when docked with a system in your car? Playing a fighting game with a friend wouldn’t mean staring into a stone-age screen anymore. It might, however, require clearing off the table (assuming the characters couldn’t interact with the background, another interesting possibility with the Kinect-style hardware behind OmniTouch).

Changes are coming

If you work in the mobile industry, change is as frequent as it is dramatic. With so much cool stuff coming out on what seems like a monthly basis, it’s hard not to be jaded at times. OmniTouch, as well as the competing products we’ll undoubtedly get from Google and Apple, may eventually be big enough to dethrone predecessors for months or more. Of course, we’ll have to wait and see to be sure. And given what we’ve seen so far, it could be a really long wait.