Campus News in Brief

Researchers develop touch-based technology

Recently, Carnegie Mellon researchers demonstrated technology that allows users to turn almost any surface into a touchscreen.

The system, christened WorldKit, was created by researchers at the Human-Computer Interaction Institute. WorldKit allows someone to rub most surfaces to “paint” a remote control for his or her television and create other ad hoc interfaces.

Doctoral student in human computer interaction (HCI) Robert Xiao emphasized that WorldKit does not need the complex project setup of previous, similar technology.

“Depth sensors are getting better and projectors just keep getting smaller,” Xiao said in a university press release. “We envision an interactive ‘light bulb’ — a miniaturized device that could be screwed into an ordinary light fixture and pointed or moved to wherever an interface is needed.”

The system does not require prior calibration; WorldKit automatically adjusts its sensing and image projection to the orientation of the chosen surface.

Users can summon many different kinds of interfaces from a menu. Ultimately, the developers of WorldKit want users to be able to custom design interfaces with gestures.

Although WorldKit currently focuses on interacting with physical surfaces, its creators hope to make it possible for users to interact with the system in free space.

“We’re only just getting to the point where we’re considering the larger questions,” Chris Harrison, a Ph.D. student in HCI, said in a university press release.

“People have talked about creating smart environments where sensors, displays and computers are interwoven,” Harrison added, noting that a multitude of applications in home, office, hospitals, nursing homes, and schools for WorldKit have yet to be explored.

Robotic paint-stripping system wins award

The Advanced Robotic Laser Coating Removal System (ARLCRS), developed by Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) and Concurrent Technologies Corporation (CTC) of Johnstown, Penn., was named a gold winner in the materials science category of the 2013 Edison Awards, announced on April 25 in a ceremony in Chicago.

The ARLCRS uses high-powered lasers mounted on mobile robotic platforms to remove paint and other coatings from aircraft. The NREC is developing the system for use by the U.S. Air Force. Six autonomous mobile robots are being built by NREC, each of which will be equipped with a high-power laser coating remover developed by CTC.

The robots are part of a two-year project, during which they will work to remove paint from aircrafts at Hill Air Force Base in Utah.

The ARLCRS system eliminates the need for abrasives or chemical paint removers, in turn reducing hazardous wastes and emissions.
The robots ensure accuracy and protect human workers from danger.

The project is headed by Tony Stentz — NREC director and principal investigator  — and project manager Stuart Lawrence.