15. Ivan Poupyrev

Senior research scientist, Disney Research

15. Ivan Poupyrev

The Inventor Of The Midas Touch

Every time you touch your iPhone’s screen, you create a circuit, and a small jolt of electricity shoots through your skin. As a result, your screen knows just where you touched it. Ivan Poupyrev had a theory: What if he sent a broad spectrum of AC current through everyday objects? Would those objects be able to sense touch? The answer is yes, and Touche is the sensor system developed by Poupyrev and his team at Disney to do it.

Connect Touche to a living orchid and the plant’s entire skin becomes touch-sensitive just like a smartphone screen; attach it to a computer-music program and you can play the flower like a violin. Touche is compatible with almost any object you can grab–wooden tables, metal sculptures, water tanks, even breathing humans. Touche could make every square inch of Disney World responsive to touch–and open up a world of possibility for connecting objects to the Internet. “My long-term vision,” Poupyrev says, “is making the entire world interactive.”

[Illustration by Ray Smith]

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started Philanthroper.com, a simple way to give back every day.