Disney Research (Pittsburgh) has developed a touch control system, called Touche, that not only expands the normal range of touch input, but also allows anything be used as a touch controller. The video demonstration is alternately daffy and fascinating, ranging from negative reinforcement for people who try to eat breakfast cereal with their hands (?!?) to controlling a smart phone with gestures alone. It seems to be a technology in search of a purpose right now, but it has some intriguing possibilities.
What the team has done is is move touch controls from a binary sampling (touch/no-touch) to a new technique called Swept Frequency Capacitive Sensing (SFCS), which captures more information. This allows devices to recognize different kinds of gestures, so it can tell things like hand position, pinching, grasping, the number of fingers being used, and so on. More interesting is it’s ability to function with a range of surfaces and objects, including water and the human body.