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Turn anything into a Touchscreen Electrick!

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Touch screen smartphones and tablets have definitely made our lives easier. The touch screens are intuitive and even a child can operate it. Have you ever thought of turning a normal boring surface into a touch screen? Thanks to scientists at Carnegie Mellon University, we might soon be able to turn anything into a touch screen. These scientists came up with a way of using conductive spray paint for making almost any object touch-friendly.

First let me explain how a touch screens work! The touch screen display on tablet or a smartphone carries a tiny electrical charge which gets disrupted when someone operates it with a finger. This conducts electricity away. The smartphone knows where it has been touched and detects where on the screen occurs the loss of charge. A new experimental technology known as Electrick has been discovered by the scientists at Carnegie Mellon University’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute.

Things like Guitar are not designed in a way for carrying an electrical charge. So, in order to make this work, they have to be first upgraded with a conductive spray paint coat, special film, and more materials for allowing them to conduct electricity. But, the charge should be in a generous amount so as it doesn’t give shock when touched. The charge should be just enough for allowing a series of electrodes placed around the edge of the object for detecting a charge when a human finger makes contact by re-routing some of the current on the ground.

The researchers, in this case, used a carbon conductive aerosol paint which has been designed to reduce static buildup or alternatively to block radio frequency signals in sensitive electronics. This technique which is used for turning that spray paint into a touch screen is known as an electric field tomography. It works by sending an electrical charge through just two of the electrodes at a time. After that, it measures the charge received by all of the others.

The changes in that measured charge can be used by calculating where a human makes contact with the object. However, this approach isn’t as perfect as a touch screen of the smartphone. But, the researchers have now found that they can calculate the finger’s location with about one centimeter accuracy. Although, the most notable thing here, is that the touch screen surfaces no longer have to be just flat and small.

The researchers from the university were able to turn a four-by-eight-foot sheet of drywall into a giant touch-friendly surface. Not only this, even a human brain recreated from Jell-O responded to finger touches using the cheaper approach of Electrick! The question that arises in my mind is: Will this new technology replace the technology used in smartphones? I guess the answer would be negative. However, it could make the way for everything else in our home for responding in a similar way like a smartphone.

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