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Elastic touchscreen prototype lets you pinch and zoom in '2.5D'

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Obake Touchscreen
Obake Touchscreen

Touchscreen technology may have evolved over the years to offer true multi-touch and give us control of our digital workspaces, but flat glass displays largely lack any type of tactile feedback. A new prototype designed by Dhairya Dand and Rob Hemsley of MIT's Media Lab, called Obake, looks to bring even more touch to the touchscreen — using actuators, depth cameras, a projector, and a silicone screen to make pinch-to-zoom and other gestures a 3D reality.

Obake is marketed as a "2.5D display," which features an elastic touchpad with its display projected directly on top. Unlike a traditional touchscreen, the silicon display detects push and pull input using its depth sensing camera, while actuators hold and shape the screen to match a user's gestures. It's designed to mimic the “fluidity and malleability” of water, but allows traditional touchscreen gestures to take on the form of 3D geometric shapes. Due to its complex setup, the technology isn't going to be directly embedded in a smartphone or tablet, but Dand and Hemsley's research may influence how we interact with 3D displays in the future.