Skip to main content

A sheet of this smart fabric can transform any table into a giant trackpad

Ever think that the twitchy computer trackpad on your laptop does not give you enough space to work with? Smart materials maker Madison Maxey is here to help. Developed with Brooklyn’s New Lab and Autodesk’s Pier 9 workshop, Maxey has created a Textile Touchpad that looks a bit like a tablecloth but is, in fact, a giant touch-sensitive surface.

“We created the textile trackpad as an early sample that can help designers, the disabled, and the elderly comfortably use a trackpad by expanding the size of the interface,” Maxey, who is founder of the smart fabric startup Loomia, told Digital Trends. “Imagine a designer having an intimate canvas, or shaky hands being able to navigate a computer with a palm instead of a finger. Fabric is a strong platform for large surface-area technology because it can fold into a small space to carry, and expand to cover a table when it’s needed. We decided to build this textile trackpad to show that smart fabric can be more than workout shirts and light up dresses — but can also be a functional part of our experience with the digital world.”

Unfolded, the material measures 30 by 36 inches. Aside from the difference in form factor, though, it works much like any other touch surface and even boasts some smart vibration motors which provide haptic feedback to show that users’ gestures have been picked up.

If you are wondering how much you will need to give Maxey to get hold of one of your own, however, don’t sweat — it’s free. Well, almost. You need to buy components, such as the Adafruit Flora micro-controller that gives it its smarts, but Maxey has made the whole design freely available on Instructables so you can build your own.

“This project was started at Autodesk and there’s a strong open source community there,” she continued. “We decided to open source the prototype instructions so that makers can start to think of smart fabric as a tool for creation, and to align with Autodesk’s philosophy.”

You can check out the Instructables page here.

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…
This AI cloned my voice using just three minutes of audio
acapela group voice cloning ad

There's a scene in Mission Impossible 3 that you might recall. In it, our hero Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) tackles the movie's villain, holds him at gunpoint, and forces him to read a bizarre series of sentences aloud.

"The pleasure of Busby's company is what I most enjoy," he reluctantly reads. "He put a tack on Miss Yancy's chair, and she called him a horrible boy. At the end of the month, he was flinging two kittens across the width of the room ..."

Read more
Digital Trends’ Top Tech of CES 2023 Awards
Best of CES 2023 Awards Our Top Tech from the Show Feature

Let there be no doubt: CES isn’t just alive in 2023; it’s thriving. Take one glance at the taxi gridlock outside the Las Vegas Convention Center and it’s evident that two quiet COVID years didn’t kill the world’s desire for an overcrowded in-person tech extravaganza -- they just built up a ravenous demand.

From VR to AI, eVTOLs and QD-OLED, the acronyms were flying and fresh technologies populated every corner of the show floor, and even the parking lot. So naturally, we poked, prodded, and tried on everything we could. They weren’t all revolutionary. But they didn’t have to be. We’ve watched enough waves of “game-changing” technologies that never quite arrive to know that sometimes it’s the little tweaks that really count.

Read more
Digital Trends’ Tech For Change CES 2023 Awards
Digital Trends CES 2023 Tech For Change Award Winners Feature

CES is more than just a neon-drenched show-and-tell session for the world’s biggest tech manufacturers. More and more, it’s also a place where companies showcase innovations that could truly make the world a better place — and at CES 2023, this type of tech was on full display. We saw everything from accessibility-minded PS5 controllers to pedal-powered smart desks. But of all the amazing innovations on display this year, these three impressed us the most:

Samsung's Relumino Mode
Across the globe, roughly 300 million people suffer from moderate to severe vision loss, and generally speaking, most TVs don’t take that into account. So in an effort to make television more accessible and enjoyable for those millions of people suffering from impaired vision, Samsung is adding a new picture mode to many of its new TVs.
[CES 2023] Relumino Mode: Innovation for every need | Samsung
Relumino Mode, as it’s called, works by adding a bunch of different visual filters to the picture simultaneously. Outlines of people and objects on screen are highlighted, the contrast and brightness of the overall picture are cranked up, and extra sharpness is applied to everything. The resulting video would likely look strange to people with normal vision, but for folks with low vision, it should look clearer and closer to "normal" than it otherwise would.
Excitingly, since Relumino Mode is ultimately just a clever software trick, this technology could theoretically be pushed out via a software update and installed on millions of existing Samsung TVs -- not just new and recently purchased ones.

Read more