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Scientists Developed Spray Can Turn Any Surface Into A Touch Screen

This Spray can be applied to variety of surfaces to become touch sensitive.

The technology, called Electrick, was developed by scientists from Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania, with the findings published in an open access paper.

Electrick, a low-cost and versatile sensing technique that enables touch input on a wide variety of objects and surfaces, whether small or large, flat or irregular. 

The spray consists of an electrically conductive carbon-based material. When applied to an object, it allows it to conduct electricity. By applying electrodes to the object, and then measuring the voltage at different points, the position of a person’s finger can be tracked.

"For the first time, we've been able to take a can of spray paint and put a touch screen on almost anything," said Chris Harrison, assistant professor in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII) and head of the Future Interfaces Group at CMU, in a statement.

The spray can be applied to a variety of objects, anything from plastic toys to smartphone cases, and even to Jell-O. In the video below, the team describe the various uses for this technology.

The effect is known as shunting, where electric current is “shunted” to the ground when a finger touches a particular location. The electrodes can localize where this shunting is occurring, using a process known as electric field tomography.

The team also said their process is compatible with regular manufacturing methods, such as spray coating or casting, and even 3D printing. This means there is a huge range of objects that can be made touch sensitive, with little additional technology required.

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