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Brief Published: 19 Apr 2013

Obake: Elastic Touchscreen Display


Obake is a malleable, flexible touchscreen that allows users to pinch, poke and mould its surface. Developed by Dhairya Dand and Rob Hemsley of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab in the US, Obake’s stretched elastic screen forms what its creators describe as a “2.5-D” interface.

“Screens as they exist today are flat, 2D and rigid; even the 3D displays we have today are not true 3D – they are optical illusions,” explains Dand on his website. “Obake imagines how we would interact with elastic display."

Using a depth-sensing camera, the Obake can detect the screen’s movements, while a series of linear actuators running underneath the elastic’s surface can change the screen’s topography. The display is projected onto the elastic, enabling it to contort as the surface adapts to pressure. The Obake prototype could pave the way for everyday products that provide a much richer user experience.

Scientists and designers around the world are experimenting with alternative user interfaces to provide maximum interaction between the digital and physical worlds, fuelled by advances in gesture-control technology. Earlier this year, a research student at MIT unveiled SpaceTop 3D, a 3D interface which allows users to “reach inside” their computer to move screens.

Meanwhile, US entertainment firm Disney is experimenting with mobile projectors to enable new forms of interaction with everyday objects. For more, see The New User Interface and Touch-Free Tech.