Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Haptix Quickly Hits Kickstarter Goal to Add Touch Control From Any Surface

Haptix, a little camera device that promises to turn regular surfaces into 3-D multi-touch controllers, has exceeded its Kickstarter goal of $100,000 in just five days.

Haptix2That’s enough for the five-person Haptix team to complete “tooling” of its device so it can be manufactured in China and sold for $70.

Haptix aims to be a “mouse killer,” so users can precisely manipulate what they see on the screen in front of them by using their fingers on any flat surface. Of course, they’ll have to set up Haptix so it can “view” that surface, but the gadget should work on a desk, or on top of a regular keyboard.

Haptix co-creator Darren Lim says the trick is his team’s software, which allows affordable 3-D sensing to work in poor conditions like close proximity to surfaces.

Sure, $100,000 is a particularly modest goal as far as Kickstarter hardware campaigns go, but now it’s out of the way. Today, Haptix is telling backers that if it can hit $150,000, it will also produce a pressure-sensitive stylus for artists.

Haptix fits into one of the more interesting current trends in technology — taking users away from the abstractions of standard computer interfaces and back into the environments around us. I like to think of it as “the disappearing interface.” It all started with the touchscreen — where you feel that you directly manipulate virtual objects — and now is extending into the air and onto regular surfaces.

After Microsoft’s Kinect, the best-known recent effort in this space is Leap Motion, a well-established startup with nearly $50 million in funding as well as a $25 million fund from its investors to support third-party application development. Leap famously and somewhat magically allows users to control their PCs by gesturing in the air. But it has suffered delays, and continues to be “challenging” and “tiring,” given that users must hold their hands in the air for extended periods of time.

In a way, Haptix seems less exciting than Leap Motion because it’s anchored to surfaces. It also seems like it might be less relevant in the coming years, as more laptops add touchscreens, and as tablets continue to rise in popularity.

Lim disagrees, because Haptix will allow users to comfortably rest their hands so they can use the controller all day without tiring, for all sorts of tasks other than typing on a keyboard. Also, Lim said, Haptix doesn’t rely on infrared, so it will work in all lighting conditions, where Leap doesn’t function as well in very bright light.

Haptix currently works on Windows and Ubuntu, with Android in progress. Lim says the most salient bit of feedback so far has been from backers who want a Mac version. If all goes as planned, the device will be shipped to Kickstarter backers in January, and applications won’t have to be modified to support Haptix input.

Haptix has been in development for a year, and Lim received support for the project as one of the young entrepreneurs selected to be a Thiel Fellow this year. He said the company is also now raising an angel round of funding.

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