In through the outfield blog

16 May 2012

Disney's Touché touch-sensing invention

Disney has come up with a revolutionary touch-sensing invention,Touché, as explained in a Yahoo article.

Different types of touch would mean that a doorknob would know how to lock itself by the way it had been touched, or a sofa would alter the room's lighting or the volume on the TV depending on how you sat in it. It seems to me that if you aren't aware of this, things could suddenly happen, not always to your satisfaction, and you would have to learn a lot about how each device worked.

Dr Poupyrev is apparently key to the project, and I have found three patent applications by him for Disney, all filed on the same day (8 April 2010). They were also all published on the same day (13 October 2011). 

The one that most closely resembles the invention is Generating virtual stimulation devices and illusory sensations using tactile display technology, which is only a US application (all foreign patent rights seem to have been given up). It appears to me to be somewhat different from the Touché as it talks of illusions (Disney is the applicant, after all). Below is the main drawing.

Disney tactile display patent image
The document's summary says "Systems and methods provide for controlling the characteristics of stimulation devices arranged in a grid topology to generate virtual stimulation devices and illusory sensations. Embodiments provide for the generation of illusory sensations including, but not limited to, continuous linear movement and shapes such as curves, squares, and circles. According to embodiments, a tactile display apparatus is provided that facilitates user interaction with the tactile display. The tactile display apparatus includes an interface embedded with stimulation devices and a control device that controls the operation of the stimulation devices to generate illusory sensations."

Also published were System and method for sensing human activity by monitoring impedance, which was also published as a PCT "World" document requesting protection across many countries, and Motionbeam interaction techniques for handheld projectors, which I thought very intriguing. The idea is that you can wave your hand across the beam to change what happens on the screen. The main drawing is given below.

Disney motion beam interaction patent image

I suspect that the publication of Ivan Poupyrev's patent application is awaited. It takes 18 months for patent applications to be published from the date of filing, and those who have filed can if they wish talk about the invention. He has his own page on the Web and many of his writings are available via Google Scholar.

Also in his name is a granted US patent for Sony, Apparatus and method for touch screen interaction based on tactile feedback and pressure measurement, and US patent application Electrovibration for touch surfaces, which I strongly suspect is also for Disney. It is an oddity of the US patent system that it is not required at the published application stage to state the name of the applicant, only at grant (all other countries as far as I am aware do so). At least one co-inventor, Ali Israr, worked with Poupyrev on other patent applications. It was published in November 2011.

It does show a problem in searching for material: you can't rely on the applicant name being present in US patent applications (if foreign documents are filed then the name will presumably be picked up).


The comments to this entry are closed.