Anyone who thinks that the iPad is a little on the small side might like this project from students at Potsdam’s Hasso Plattner Institute in Germany. Multitoe is a touchscreen interface for floors that can tell different users apart merely by the soles of their shoes and the way they walk–ergo, we at Fast Company dub it the iPed. And it’s more than merely a surface for playing Interactive Twister.
The technology is known as frustrated total internal reflection, or FTIR, and is already used by some touchscreens. It works by shining light beams into a thin layer of acrylic that is sandwiched between an even thinner layer of silicon on the top, and a thick glass sheet on the bottom. The lights bounce around the acrylic until they are released by pressure from the user’s foot. A camera built into an alcove in the floor then captures the light and the image is then projected onto the floor. The more pressure there is, the brighter the light.
The research team has already adapted it for an old shoot-em-up game called Unreal Tournament. The user just has to lean their body left or right, and the floor gauges the movement by the change of pressure on it. The typing function is neatness personified–even though the individual keys of the keyboard are way smaller than a person’s foot, it’s accurate because the program can identify the sweet spot on the sole of the individual’s foot and pinpoint which key they are trying to step on.
Anyway, doesn’t the Hasso Plattner team’s creation remind you of Tom Hanks playing the piano in FAO Schwarz? Compared to the Multitoe, the foot mouse is just so Windows 95.