Technology on tap

Feb. 11, 2005
Time reversal acoustics technology

“Time reversal acoustics” is not a technology currently being bantered about at trucking conferences and trade shows, but it has potential to impact the industry.

Patented by a French firm called Sensitive Object, it connects inexpensive sensors to the audio input of a computer to turn ordinary objects into tactile screens capable of relaying information with a simple tap.

According to the company, the technology would enable people to send e-mail from a table, turn on the television with an armchair or transform any rigid surface into a remote control panel with hundreds of touch-sensitive spots.

Such technology could also be used to turn on the headlights by tapping a spot on the steering wheel or changing radio stations with a tap on the headliner, among other things.

According to Sensitive Object, their technology is related to voice recognition. When a surface is tapped, it vibrates and produces a unique combination of sound waves. Hit the same surface at a slightly different spot and it produces another unique pattern of sound waves. Microphones capture those two different sound waves and signal-processing software distinguishes between them. Background noise is not an issue, either, since it is the sound traveling through the material, not through the air that matters.

In September 2004, the company announced that it had received 2 million Euros in funding from Sofinnova Partners, one of Europe’s independent venture-capital firms. In the announcement, Sensitive Object CEO, Hubert Cospain, noted that that company’s next developmental efforts would focus on “electrical command, from switches to control panels, including keyboards and the tactillisation of objects.”

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