Will The Future See Us All Using XTouch To Turn Our Countertops Into Giant iPad Controllers?

Will The Future See Us All Using XTouch To Turn Our Countertops Into Giant iPad Controllers?

Imagine slapping your nightstand to snooze your iPhone’s alarm. Or rapping on the kitchen countertop to flip recipe book pages so your flour-coated hands don’t mess up the iPad’s screen. These scenarios could soon be real: XTouch is a new technology that essentially turns any solid surface into an input device for an iPad or iPhone.

It works like this: Launch an XTouch-equipped app, then set the iPhone or iPad down on a table, counter or any flat, solid surface. The app will run a setup process that lets you place virtual buttons on the table around the iDevice.

Once setup is completed, you can tap or knock on the table to perform a variety of functions and controls, depending on the app; for instance, one of the two apps currently available with XTouch is Magic Xylophone, and it extends the app’s xylophone keys into the surface surrounding the iPad or iPhone.

I spoke briefly with XTouch CEO and co-founder Amin Heidari, who explained the basic principle behind the technology. XTouch process both sounds and accelerometer input in order to correctly interpret a user knocking or tapping on a surface and turn that input into commands.

“It recognizes the very small difference between the acoustic signatures when the user is tapping on the table.”

As far as applications the video clip above presents some interesting examples, including the ones I mentioned at the top of the post. Amin also sees a big role for XTouch in gaming.

“Because they need controls for their games, they need to take up valuable screen real estate…but with XTouch, they can easily bring the controls out of the screen — especially for multiplayer games.”

XTouch has just come out of stealth mode, so the technology is brand-new — right now you’ll only find two apps at the App Store equipped with XTouch (the Magic Xylophone app mentioned earlier, and a game called Voodoo Tap Frogs). But expect more XTouch apps after the SDK ships this spring. Amin says they’re talking to “some really big names,” but wouldn’t expand beyond that.

About the author

Eli MilchmanWhen he was eight, Eli Milchman came home from frolicking in the Veld one day and was given an Atari 400. Since then, his fascination with technology has made him an intrepid early adopter of whatever charming new contraption crosses his path — which explains why he's Cult of Mac's test editor-at-large. He calls San Francisco home, where he works as a journalist and photographer. Eli has contributed to the pages of Wired.com and BIKE Magazine, among others. Hang with him on Twitter.

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