The Disappearing Computer
The Disappearing Computer
The Disappearing Computer

The Disappearing Computer

The Augmented Reality Sandbox funded by the NSF and the sensing technology Touché from the Disney Research team are two projects giving us a glimpse of the next phase of user interface possibilities coming our way.  We take a look at them both below:



Touché is a new capacitive touch sensing technology created by Munehiko Sato, Ivan Poupyrev and Chris Harrison that enables touch and gesture interactivity to be added to materials such as a body of water, a table, or even a user's body. The gesture recognition system can scale with the size of the objects; for example a doorknob enabled with this technology can capture the configuration of specific fingers, while a larger table can track the entire user's presence.


The researchers presented their project findings at this year's ACM CHI Conference where they won a Best Paper award for their work. Additional technical details and a demonstration of the project in action can be seen at:

"As powerful and inspiring as this vision is, it imposes a significant problem: how we will interact with computers that are invisible? From the end-user perspective, the interface will appear as a computer as long as there are buttons to press and mice to move, and thus will never truly disappear. Completely new interaction technologies are required, and we hope that this work contributes to the emergence of future ubiquitous computing environments."

Additional Coverage: New Scientist, ExtremeTech, ScienceDaily, Verge, Wired, CNET
Source & Credits: Disney Research

Augmented Reality Sandbox

Inspired by a previous project created by a group of Czech researchers Oliver Kreylos and several partners (enabled by NSF funding) have put together a new version that will eventually be used as a hands-on exhibit at the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center in Vermont. The system uses a real sandbox in combination with a Kinect sensor and a projector to create an interactive topographic map display.


The application will be used as a teaching tool for visitors by enabling them to use their hands and a few tools to shape the sand into unique formations that are then augmented in real time with projections of topographic contour lines and simulated water. The system "teaches geographic, geologic, and hydrologic concepts such as how to read a topographic map, the meaning of contour lines, watersheds, catchment areas, levees, etc." but you could easily see a tool like this be used in other design and engineering professions in early concept development.

Learn more about the projects development at: or see it in action in the demo video below.

Additional Coverage: Verge, Engadget, Mashable, Reddit, This is Colossal
Source: Oliver Kreylos (IDAV, UC DAVIS)