Haptix Transforms Any surface Into A Multi-Touch Interface

Haptix Transforms Any surface Into A Multi-Touch Interface

Haptix Touch has just announced a new input device that turns any surface into a 3D multi-touch interface. The device, called the Haptix, closely resembles the Leap Motion gesture controller in terms of appearance and underlying technology. Whereas Leap is placed on a surface and points up, though, Haptix points downwards at whatever surface your hands are currently resting on.

Haptix has the look of a webcam, and indeed packs two 640 x 360 resolution CMOS image sensors chosen to achieve a high frame rate, with lenses that currently have a 120° field of view (though the developers are hoping to increase that to 150° with better lenses). It's been programmed to track 10 objects, with unique IDs assigned to each so that different functions can be activated by different fingers. The system also includes infrared LEDs, allowing Haptix to work during the day and through the night, if required.

Haptix packs two 640 x 360 resolution CMOS image sensors with 120° field of view lenses

The little box registers touch points on any flat surface, while also adding a layer of 3D sensing in the area above so that users can see where fingers are in relation to the screen before tapping to confirm an action.

"Even though Haptix may seem similar to Leap Motion (both are 3D sensing), there are several fundamental differences," says Lim. "Unlike Leap Motion, Haptix doesn't rely on infrared, but only employs infrared when illumination is low. This addresses limitations in Leap, as Haptix can be used in all lighting conditions and on reflective surfaces. 3D sensing and gestures alone aren't enough to replace the mouse. That's why we've made it a must to complement 3D sensing with multitouch, allowing Haptix to be a mouse-killer. Using Leap requires your hands to be held in the air, whereas Haptix allows you to rest your hands on a surface."

No mouse here - Haptix replaces the trusty mouse, with single-click programmed for the index finger, and double-click the second finger

"It can be used as a 3D sensor for gesture control," he adds. "We're starting with multitouch because it's what people can actually use right now, but we'll definitely develop 3D motion sensing applications over time."

Haptix can be used as a 3D sensor for gesture control

Clipping Haptix onto the top of a laptop display and plugging the cable into a spare USB port, for example, will allow a user to pinch to zoom, swipe and scroll across the surface of the keyboard to manipulate what's on the screen. Think of it as having a virtual touchscreen interface or huge invisible trackpad floating just above the keys. Once typing begins, however, the system auto disables.

Haptix is only being offered with cabled connectivity. "We did consider wireless, but the extra cost and bulk didn't seem to be worth it for consumers (especially something so large on the top of the laptop)," explains Lim. "However, we do have something special planned to make it wireless, which we'll announce further down the road."

For now, Haptix is only compatible with Windows, but Android and OS X are in the works. Lim tells us that, despite the fancy software, CPU utilization is low — low enough that a smartphone version is viable, anyway. Curiously, Haptix also “integrates with your system out of the box,” basically allowing you to use it as an input device from the get-go; Leap, as you may know, possesses no such integration, instead forcing you to download Leap-enabled apps.

The Haptix controller is being developed as a Kickstarter project by Darren Lim and Lai Xue, the former being a Thiel fellow and the latter being the “youngest engineer at Intel” back in 2011. Early birds can get a Haptix for $60, while the retail price will be $70 — $10 less than the Leap. A successful funding campaign should see the first Haptix units being shipped out in February 2014.


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Write by: RC - Saturday, August 17, 2013

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