Vibration-sensing tech turns any ‘dumb’ surface into a smart touch-sensitive one

hypersurfaces touch sensitive tech smart image01

It’s no exaggeration to say that smart devices are virtually everywhere these days. But what if that was literally true, and it was possible to use a special chip to transform any “dumb” surface into a touch-sensitive one able to act as a computer input? That science fiction idea is what U.K.-based startup HyperSurfaces is working hard to achieve. Utilizing special vibration sensors and some impressive machine learning technology, the company wants to turn everything into a smart object capable of recognizing user interactions.

“We have been used to [interacting] with technology through mouse, buttons and touchscreens, but this might no longer be a requirement for the future,” CEO Bruno Zamborlin told Digital Trends. “With HyperSurfaces, any physical object made of any shape, size, and material — including wood, glass, metal, [and others] — can become intelligent and touch-sensitive. Our tiny microchip detects the vibrations that we make when we touch the object, and understands the type of interaction that just occurred, transforming it into a digital command.”

This “type of interaction” could include anything from a tap in a certain location to a swipe to a footstep. The chip reportedly doesn’t require connection to the cloud for processing. Any actions which are triggered can be carried out entirely through local processing.

“I imagine there will be a first wave of applications where the focus will be to free up objects from their existing old interfaces,” Zamborlin continued. “Imagine, for example, a car where all buttons and switches are gone and the door, cockpit and ceiling are interactive. You [could] fade the lights just by swiping on the ceiling, or take a call by tapping anywhere on the cockpit. Designers would be free to create new ergonomics, [and] experiment with new materials. Other immediate applications can be found in the smart home. No more light switches: your kitchen table is your interface to control lights and thermostat. Your floor [could become] an advanced security system able to tell whether a would-be thief came in as opposed to your dog.”

Zamborlin thinks this will be followed by a second wave of applications in which every every object is seamlessly augmented and connected to one another other, necessitating interaction to be rethought in its entirety.

For now, the company is keeping quiet about its progress, although impressive tech demos like the one above certainly get us hyped about the possibilities. HyperSurfaces has raised $1.1 million in seed funding, and plans to release an SDK (software development kit) sometime in 2019. “We have also already been contacted by various manufacturers eager to integrate our chip in their existing products,” Zamborlin said.

Mobile

The Honor 10 Lite is proof a cheap phone isn’t the compromise it once was

The Honor 10 Lite, the sequel to the already great Honor 9 Lite, advances the concept of cheap phones competing with more expensive devices even further. We spent some time with it to find out what it's like.
Emerging Tech

The best 3D printers for 2019

On the hunt for a new 3D printer? We've got your back. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned veteran, this list of the best 3D printers has what you're looking for.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Norsemen’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Gaming

Among hundreds of choices, these are the best 25 SNES games of all time

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System might be the greatest game console ever made, but what are the best titles for the system? Here are our picks for the best SNES games.
Emerging Tech

Why wait? Here are some CES 2019 gadgets you can buy right now

Companies come to CES to wow us with their cutting edge technology, but only a few products are slated to hit the market right away. Here is our list of the best CES 2019 tech you can buy right now.
Emerging Tech

Drones: New rules could soon allow flights over people and at night

With commercial operators in mind, the U.S. government is looking to loosen restrictions on drone flights with a set of proposals that would allow the machines greater freedom to fly over populated areas and also at night.
Emerging Tech

Yamaha’s new app lets you tune your motorcycle with a smartphone

It used to be that if you wanted to tune your motorcycle’s engine and tweak its performance, you needed specialized tools and even more specialized knowledge. Yamaha’s new Power Tuner app changes that.
Emerging Tech

Short film celebrates New Yorker’s amazing robot costumes

New York City resident Peter Kokis creates stunning robot costumes out of household trash. His designs are huge, heavy, and extremely intricate, and never fail to turn heads when he's out and about.
Emerging Tech

In a first for humankind, China is growing plants on the moon

Having recently landed a probe on the far side of the moon, China announced that it managed to grow the first plant on the moon, too. Here's why that matters for deep space travel.
Emerging Tech

Ford’s sweaty robot bottom can simulate 10 years of seat use in mere days

Ford has developed 'Robutt,' a sweaty robot bottom that's designed to simulate the effects of having a pair of human buttocks sitting on its car seats for thousands of hours. Check it out.
Emerging Tech

CES 2019 recap: All the trends, products, and gadgets you missed

CES 2019 didn’t just give us a taste of the future, it offered a five-course meal. From 8K and Micro LED televisions to smart toilets, the show delivered with all the amazing gadgetry you could ask for. Here’s a look at all the big…
Emerging Tech

Want to know which drones are flying near you? There’s an app for that

Want to know what that mysterious drone buzzing over your head is up to? A new system developed by AirMap, Google Wing, and Kittyhawk.io could soon tell you -- via a map on your phone.
Emerging Tech

A Japanese hotel fires half its robot staff for being bad at their jobs

Japan’s oddball Henn na Hotel has fired half of its 243 robot staff. The reason? Because these labor-saving machines turned out to be causing way more problems than they were solving.
Emerging Tech

CERN plans to build a massive particle collider that dwarfs the LHC

CERN already has the world's biggest particle accelerator. Now it wants a bigger one. Meet the 9 billion euro Future Circular Collider that will allow physicists to extend their study of the universe and matter at the smallest level.