A new project from Microsoft Research and Carnegie Mellon University combines Kinect-like depth-sensing camera with a projector to turn any flat surface into a potential multi-touch interface.
The Omnitouch system is a shoulder-mounted apparatus that comprises a pico projector and a depth-sensing camera from Kinect technology-maker PrimeSense -- one that's similar to the Xbox peripheral but modified to work at smaller ranges.
The system can project interactive interfaces and games onto anything from a palm or forearm to a sheet of paper or a table, as shown in this video demonstration.
As described in detail in an academic paper [PDF], the Omnitouch system uses a variety of techniques to detect when a finger has made contact with a surface, and to automatically adjust the projected image to be centered and in focus as the user and the touch surface move.
The researchers point out that such an interface does not face the size limitations of standard touch-screen devices -- users can even use a finger to "draw" a working area of arbitrary size on the surface.
While the shoulder-mounted device looks a bit unweildy to actually wear for extended periods at the moment, the researchers believe future miniaturization will eventually let an Omnitouch fit into an area the size of a matchbox, to potentially be worn as a pendant or watch.