Imagine entering your living room and sliding your foot purposefully over a particular stretch of floor. Your hi-fi system springs to life, pumping out the sounds of your current favourite CD.
While touchscreens are close to ubiquitous in portable electronic gadgets, touch sensitive floors have barely got off the ground. That could be about to change thanks to the development of a "touch floor" by Patrick Baudisch and colleagues at the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam, Germany.
The group's prototype, named Multi-toe, is made up of a 0.5-millimetre-thick sheet of silicone lying on an 8-millimetre-thick layer of clear acrylic, both of which sit on a thick glass sheet to provide rigidity.
Light beams shone into the acrylic bounce around inside until pressure from a foot, say, allows them to escape. A camera below captures the light and registers an image of whatever has pressed down on the floor.
Forms of this technique, known as frustrated total internal reflection (FTIR), are already in use in some touchscreens, but Baudisch's version expands the idea by allowing the identification of individual users from the pattern on the tread of their shoes.
From New Scientist
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