Monday, 12 Oct, 2009 Technology

Latest Invention: Smart Blocks That Interact with Touch Screen


The combination of the surface interactive table-top computer developed by Microsoft and several smart building blocks could help engineers create various designs much easier. The smart blocks represent the latest invention from German scientists at the Hasso Plattner Institute at the University of Potsdam. It is worth mentioning that in 2008 the software giant introduced Surface, which represents a touch-screen table computer. But the company's gadget could function only if users got in direct contact with it.

Patrick Baudisch, Torsten Becker and Frederik Rudeck are the three German engineers, who managed to interact with the Surface without touching the screen with their fingers. They created smart building blocks, dubbed Luminos. When the Luminos are used to create complex structures on the touch-screen, the computer identifies their position and virtually recreates the physical construction.

The secret of the engineers' latest invention lies in the pattern installed on the base of each block - the pattern identifies the 3D shape of each Lumino. With the help of its 4 built-in cameras the Surface screen is able to read them, which helps the computer make a 3D image of the objects that lie on the top of the screen.

Besides, the computer can also identify blocks when they are stacked up. This is possible thanks to fiber optic threads included in each block, reports New Scientist. Thus, the blocks that are put on top of other blocks are still identified, though they do not come in direct contact with the screen. Currently the screen can recognize up to 10 blocks that are put one on top of another.

Despite the fact that the invention is currently in the prototype stage, the engineers believe that in the near future they would be able to come up with a technology that would be of great help to architects.

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