Disney Research Keeps Uncle Walt’s Magic Touch Alive


Disney’s R&D unit, the Pittsburgh-based Disney Research, is described by Extreme Tech as “the bleeding edge guerilla technology arm of The Walt Disney Company.”

Disney Research describes itself thusly: “a network of research labs that collaborate closely with academic institutions We’re able to combine the best of academia and industry: we work on a broad range of commercially important challenges, we view publication as a principal mechanism for quality control, we encourage engagement with the global research community, and our research has applications that are experienced by millions of people. We’re honoring Walt Disney’s legacy of innovation by researching novel technologies and deploying them on a global scale.” Or as its logo states, it’s “The science behind the magic.”

One of its latest innovative novel technologies has the potential to make all button interfaces obsolete: Touché, which senses hand gestures and turns the human body and everyday objects into virtual touchscreens. The possibilities are huge, as the presentation below at the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Austin, Texas, has demonstrated.[more]

More sensitive than binary touchscreens which only discern if a surface is being touched or not, Touché can sense a wide range of gestures like one finger, two fingers, flat palm and grasp. In the not too distant future, this Swept Frequency Capacitive Sensing technique could enable users to interact with smartphones and other wearable/implanted computer devices with gestures on the body such as grasp our hand to stop music playing or make a fist to summon the local weather on a pair of Google Glasses.

“Such contextual information significantly enhances touch interaction in a broad range of applications, from conventional touchscreens to unique contexts and materials,” explains the research team.

“Imagine a bathtub that detects when your head hits the water, or likewise, a swimming pool that detects a young child who can’t swim…or a bookcase that only swings back to reveal your secret laboratory if you grab the right book with exactly the right grip. Imagine a mouse that a) knows who is currently using the computer, and b) responds to different grips. Maybe a five-finger “claw” could lower the DPI (sniping mode), while palming the mouse might enable “relaxed” mode with different button assignments,” notes Extreme Tech.

The only real risk, adds Extreme Tech “is that Disney might patent this idea and then never use it for anything other than a handful of Disneyland attractions.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *