Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Sshhh, it’s listening: totally new computer interfaces

19.12.2007
Keyboards are a necessary part of today’s computers, right? Maybe not for much longer. A group of European scientists have used acoustic sensors to turn wooden tabletops and even three-dimensional objects into a new type of computer interface.

Sound vibrating a windowpane or through a tabletop is something most people experience daily. Sound waves travel well through most solid materials. Now, European researchers have exploited the excellent propagation of sound waves through solids to turn everyday objects – including 3D objects – into a new kind of computer interface.

By attaching sensors to solid materials, researchers from TAI-CHI, a project working with Tangible Acoustic Interfaces for Computer-Human Interaction, were able to locate exactly and track acoustic vibrations. Tapping on discrete areas of a whiteboard could generate musical notes on a computer. Tracking the sound of a finger scrawling words on a sheet of hardboard could translate, in real time, into handwriting on a computer screen. There is no need for overlays or intrusive devices.

Sensing vibrations in a solid and converting them to electrical pulses is the easy bit. Exactly locating the source of that vibration in a solid material is where it gets complicated. The problem is that the complex structures of solids make wave propagation difficult to model. Wood knots in a desktop, for instance, will alter how acoustic vibrations disperse.

Reading the signals
The TAI-CHI team investigated four main technologies. Time Delay of Arrival (TDOA) uses three or more sensors and compares the difference in arrival times of an acoustic wave at each of the sensors to establish location. In fact, the concept of TDOA has been around for about 100 years. Provided you know the propagation velocity of acoustic waves through the solid material, TDOA provides a very practical, if rather expensive, solution.

Time reversal, on the other hand, needs only a single sensor. It works on the notion that each location on the surface of a solid generates a unique impulse response which can be recorded and used to calibrate the object. Time reversal works on 3D objects just as well as flat surfaces.

MUlti-Sensor Tracking through the Reversal of Dispersion (MUST-RD) requires a deep understanding of the wave-dispersion properties of the solid. The dispersion curve of acoustic waves moving through the material under test is compared to a database of dispersion curves for common materials. From the comparison, the location of the vibration source can be calculated. (MUST-RD can also be used to give a crude estimation of a material type.)

Finally, TAI-CHI researchers worked with in-solid acoustic holography. Using sound pressure, sound intensity or particle velocity to calculate position and time, a sound source can be mapped and visualised in much the same way as an infrared camera can map heat sources. Some of the TAI-CHI researchers also experimented with a combination of acoustic localisation and Doppler tracking to locate and track sound sources moving through the air.

The range of researchers brought together by the project, part-funded by the European Commission – in Germany, France, Italy, England, Wales and Switzerland – was an important factor in its success, according to TAI-CHI coordinator, Dr Ming Yang of the University of Cardiff.

Specialist solution
Tangible acoustic interfaces like this are not going to replace keyboards and computer mice in the near future, says Dr Ming Yang. But in specific environments where keyboards are impractical – perhaps in very dirty environments or in hospitals where a keyboard might be a hiding place for bugs – TAIs could provide an elegant solution.

“Time reversal is a beautiful technology,” he says. “Unlike TDOA, it works with any object and it does not require special materials. Because it needs only a single sensor and a normal computer, it is very simple and cost-effective. One spin-off company from the University of Paris is working on commercial applications for this.”

Other technologies, such as acoustic holography, show great promise but are not ready for commercialisation.

CeTT, a Swiss member of the consortium, has put together a TAI-CHI Developer’s Kit, comprising algorithms developed during the project, software and hardware, as a one-stop-shop for application developers looking to build on TAI-CHI breakthroughs.

Other applications include a wireless sensor using Bluetooth technology that Dr Ming Yang would like to develop with commercial partners.

The time-reverse technology is the project’s major breakthrough, according to Dr Ming Yang. “Before, people were only working on easy materials. We have developed it for metal, plastic and board. We have a really interactive interface.”

Christian Nielsen | alfa
Further information:
http://cordis.europa.eu/ictresults/index.cfm/section/news/tpl/article/BrowsingType/Features/ID/89389

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Deep Learning predicts hematopoietic stem cell development
21.02.2017 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt

nachricht Sensors embedded in sports equipment could provide real-time analytics to your smartphone
16.02.2017 | University of Illinois College of Engineering

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Positrons as a new tool for lithium ion battery research: Holes in the electrode

22.02.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

New insights into the information processing of motor neurons

22.02.2017 | Life Sciences

Healthy Hiking in Smart Socks

22.02.2017 | Innovative Products

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>