Electrick: Low-Cost Touch Sensing Using Electric Field Tomography

Current touch input technologies are best suited for small and flat applications, such as smartphones, tablets and kiosks. In general, they are too expensive to scale to large surfaces, such as walls and furniture, and cannot provide input on objects having irregular and complex geometries, such as tools and toys. We introduce Electrick, a low-cost and versatile sensing technique that enables touch input on a wide variety of objects and surfaces, whether small or large, flat or irregular. This is achieved by using electric field tomography in concert with an electrically conductive material, which can be easily and cheaply added to objects and surfaces. We show that our technique is compatible with commonplace manufacturing methods, such as spray/brush coating, vacuum forming, and casting/molding – enabling a wide range of possible uses and outputs. Our technique can also bring touch interactivity to rapidly fabricated objects, including those that are laser cut or 3D printed. Through a series of studies and illustrative example uses, we show that Electrick can enable new interactive opportunities on a diverse set of objects and surfaces that were previously static.

Additional media can be found on Yang Zhang's site.

This research was generously supported with funding from The David and Lucile Packard Foundation and a Google Faculty Research Award.



Zhang, Y., Laput, G. and Harrison, C. 2017. Electrick: Low-Cost Touch Sensing Using Electric Field Tomography. In Proceedings of the 35th Annual SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Denver, Colorado, USA, May 6 - 11, 2017). CHI '17. ACM, New York, NY. 1-14.

© Chris Harrison