Spray paint that creates touch sensitive surface out of anything!

Carneige Mellon University’s Research scholars found a way to make any surface as a touch sensor. They have created a spray paint named ‘Electrick’ using the concept of Electric Field Tomography.

Electrick – A spray paint

Gadgets like computers, smartphones, wearables and interactive systems made touch sensing a common technique. Upon thriving to achieve something new, the researchers created this method to ease the implementation of touch sensors. One can use this spray paint to paint on any surface in order to make it touch sensitive. For instance, walls, steering wheels, wood, toys and jell-O.

spray paint on a toy brain as touch sensor               spray paint touch sensor on a steering wheel

An electrically conductive layer has to be formed on the surface with tiny electrodes on the edges. Common methods like spray/brush coating, casting/molding, vacuum forming are possible to paint the surface.

The concept behind this touch sensor is the more commonly used shunting effect. First of all a small amount of voltage passes through the electrodes. Upon a finger touch on the screen/surface,  a bit of voltage difference(shunt)  occurs. With the help of Electric field tomography, the paint localizes the shunting and senses the touch as a result.

Also the technology did its part on making an interactive smartphone case to open applications based on the user’s hand position on the back case. For example, opening camera upon holding in the gesture to take photo. Yang Zhang,  one of the students behind the technology, said,” The surfaces of Electrick proved durable. It is possible to add a protective coating on the painted surface”.

Chris Harrison, assistant professor in the human- computer interaction institute said,”For the first time we’ve been able to take a can of spray paint and put a touch screen on almost anything,”. They are presenting ‘Electrick’ on CHI2017, the conference representing the human factors in Computing systems. The conference is taking place in Denver, May 6-11.

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GokulPrasath Seenivasan

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