Can't Touch This - ZeroTouch Makes Touchscreens Redundant

All this touchscreen stuff is becoming so passé. Wouldn't it be so much better if you could move your hands around in the air, for the same effect?

You can. But it's way better than that.

Designed by Texas A&M University's Interface Ecology Lab, ZeroTouch is an "optical multi-touch sensor, which provides zero thickness, open air, multi-touch and gestural sensing."

Let's go through these terms. It's multi-touch, which means that you can do all sorts of things at once. Zero thickness means that it has no surface. Open air is where you use your hands (and other body parts). And gestural sensing takes the third dimension into account.

ZeroTouch sensorsZeroTouch sensorsZeroTouch utilizes 256 infrared sensors - like the one you have on your remote - equidistantly placed around a frame, to determine where your hands are and what they're doing. The diagrams on the left show how they do this: essentially, whatever goes inside the frame creates a 'shadow', and those shadows drive the software.

The possibilities are really exciting (as if a no-touch, no-screen sensing system isn't exciting enough). As the project's primary research assistant, Jon Moeller, points out, "You can stack layers together to get depth sensing and hover detection, which is kind of a big deal, because in multi-touch often when you touch an element on the screen, your finger occludes it." 

To summarize: not only do you now have 3D multi-touch sensing system that works, but you don't even need a screen.

Oh, and it's cheap. You can buy an infrared sensor lamp on eBay for less than 50 cents.

Here is the future in action: