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

Image used with permission by copyright holder

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.

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Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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