PERCs: Persistently Trackable Tangibles on Capacitive Multi-Touch Displays

Simon Voelker, Christian Cherek, Jan Thar, Thorsten Karrer, Christian Thoresen, Kjell Ivar Øvergård, and Jan Borchers
In Proceedings of UIST' 15, ACM, 351 - 356

Tangible objects on capacitive multi-touch surfaces are usually only detected while the user is touching them. When the user lets go of such a tangible, the system cannot distinguish whether the user just released the tangible, or picked it up and removed it from the surface. We introduce PERCs, persistent capacitive tangibles that “know” whether they are currently on a capacitive touch surface or not. This is achieved by adding a small field sensor to the tangible to detect the touch screen’s own, weak electromagnetic touch detection probing signal. Thus, unlike previous designs, PERCs do not get filtered out over time by the adaptive signal filters of the touch screen. We provide a technical overview of the theory behind PERCs and our prototype construction, and we evaluate detection rates, timing performance, and positional and angular accuracy for PERCs on a variety of unmodified, commercially available multi-touch devices. Through their affordable circuitry and high accuracy, PERCs open up the potential for a variety of new applications that use tangibles on today’s ubiquitous multi-touch devices.