Fujitsu Develops Technology that Turns Paper Into a Touchscreen [Video]

Fujitsu Laboratories has developed a next generation user interface which can accurately detect the users finger and what it is touching, creating an interactive touchscreen-like system, using objects in the real word.

With a webcam, a projector, and special software, researchers from Fujitsu Laboratories have made an awesome (and unexpected) mix of dead-tree and digital tech: a system that turns paper into touchscreens.

Fujitsu has developed a technology that detects objects your finger is touching in the real world, effectively turning any surface — a piece of paper, for example — into a touchscreen, DigInfo reports.

A method has been developed to combine the interactivity of a tablet and a normal piece of paper. The concept aims to combine paper and touch-screens, and create a truly ‘interactive’ real world interface.

“We think paper and many other objects could be manipulated by touching them, as with a touchscreen. This system doesn’t use any special hardware; it consists of just a device like an ordinary webcam, plus a commercial projector. Its capabilities are achieved by image processing technology,” says Fujitsu’s Media Service System Lab.

Fujitsu has built a prototype machine which can automatically ‘augment’ a magazine page or document with additional overlays of information, including pictures, links and video.

Using this technology, information can be imported from a document as data, by selecting the necessary parts with your finger.

“The system is designed not to react when you make ordinary motions on a table. It can be operated when you point with one finger. What this means is, the system serves as an interface combining analog operations and digital devices.”

In the demo a user can drag a box around a picture, which is then copied to the camera. Or you can see information overlayed on a map – which moves as the paper is dragged around a table – or touch links to browse the web.

“This system doesn’t use any special hardware; it consists of just a device like an ordinary webcam, plus a commercial projector. Its capabilities are achieved by image processing technology,” explains Taichi Murase, a researcher at Fujitsu’s Media Service System Lab.

To detect touch accurately, the system needs to detect fingertip height accurately. In particular, with the low-resolution camera used here (320 x 180), if fingertip detection is off by a single pixel, the height changes by 1 cm. So, the system requires technology for recognizing fingertips with high precision.

Also with this techniology a use can control color and brightness, in line with the ambient light, and correct individual differences in hand color. In this way, it can identify fingertips consistently, with little influence from the environment or individual differences, reports DigInfo.

Besides flat surfaces, the technology also works on curved or uneven ones, so one can easily manipulate data from a book.

Though the technology is still at the “demonstration level,” researchers at Fujitsu plan to develop a commercial version of the system by fiscal 2014, writes Mashable.

“We aim to develop a commercial version of this system by fiscal 2014. It’s still at the demonstration level, so it’s not been used in actual settings. Next, we’d like to get people to use it for actual tasks, see what issues arise, and evaluate usability. We want to reflect such feedback in this system.

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