These Sensors Can Turn Any Object or Surface Into a Controller

by David Jagneaux • March 2nd, 2016

What if you could turn any object or surface into a controller? Berkeley-based BeBop Sensors promises smart fabric technology and embedded sensors to adapt any surface into a piece of technology that can interpret and comprehend the touch, force, location, size, weight, and even shape of anything it comes into contact with.

Users are said to be able to apply BeBop sensor pads onto any object or surface. In the below video, you can see several examples.

First, it shows someone pressing their hand against the pad after it has been applied to a flat table. One could adapt that use of the technology to be applied in active VR and AR games to track movement, footsteps, dance moves, and much more. Another example in the video displays a similar pad wrapped around a tablet device. The outer edges of the pad are programmed to mimic the buttons on a controller. It would essentially turn any device into a surface full of customizable macros.

Other uses for the sensor technology include clothing for tracking impact and contact such as skullcaps and t-shirts, footpad pressure sensors, gloves and sleeves for body movement, pressure-sensitive tires, and more. BeBop is specifically targeting wearables and fabric sensors for sports, healthcare, automotive, gaming, and large-scale manufacturing.

We’re likely a long-ways off from seeing this kind of technology in any VR or AR games, but the prospect is clear, even if it does all sound a bit too good to be true. These sensors could conceivably be mapped to an entire suit that would be both discreet and comfortable to wear and eliminate the need for additional controls and sensors – but at what cost? BeBop has been around for a few years, but details on the manufacturing and licensing process are scarce. I always have questions about the maintenance of the technology and potential overheating concerns. For how long can the sensor withstand a heavy load? And how durable are they, really?

Combined with an HMD like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, full-body tracking could be done entirely with the fabric on our body if it reaches that point. As the wearable market continues to grow and evolve, more companies like BeBop will likely start to make a bigger push toward more accurate capturing for gaming.

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