ZeroTouch turns 55-inch TV into touchscreen, gets ready for market

The system can track up to 60 fingers and gives large-scale touchscreens potential

ZeroTouch, the inexpensive technology that turns regular displays into touchscreens, can be fitted to larger screens, is more responsive and is almost ready for commercialization, according to researchers working on it.

The project debuted at the Computer Human Interaction conference in 2011 and this year has been outfitted to track up to sixty fingers. The sensing area expanded from 27 inches to 55 inches. It's also more responsive, tracking at about 120 hertz versus last year's 60.

See ZeroTouch upgrades in a video on YouTube.

"Our system scales with cost linearly, while the capacitive sensing in the iPhone and iPad scales with a square of linear area," said Andruid Kerne, an associate professor at the Interface Ecology Lab at Texas A&M University].

Microsoft Surface may be the most popular name associated with tabletop computing, but because of size and price there hasn't been mass adoption. ZeroTouch's footprint is small and one of its biggest benefits is affordability.

"If you were to take a traditional 55-inch LCD television it might cost you $1,500," said research assistant Jon Moeller. "When you put a ZeroTouch sensor on there you might expect to pay $2,100 or $2,200 for that."

ZeroTouch sells developer kits that range in price from US$2,000 to $10,000.

The researchers showed a number of applications for ZeroTouch, like a multiplayer game where traditional Mac monitors were fitted with sensors. In another demonstration the system used a Microsoft Kinect camera to differentiate the hands and fingers of various users. The set-up is designed for large scale use where multiple people might be categorizing content or completing a similar task.

The 55-inch system uses an array of 64 infrared lights and 524 receivers to create an invisible mesh of light beams. When the beams are broken, the system interprets it as a point of contact.

Kerne said the team of researchers is reaching out to companies, like Apple, to let them know that this might be a cost-effective route to enable the mass adoption of large touchscreens.

Nick Barber covers general technology news in both text and video for IDG News Service. E-mail him at and follow him on Twitter at @nickjb.

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