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Almost anything can become a touchpad with some spray paint

Researchers say they've now come up with a way to give nearly every surface touch-sensing tech.

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What if you could turn nearly every surface, no matter the size or the shape, into a touchpad? Even a Jell-O mold. Or how about a guitar?

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have come up with a low-cost touch-sensing technology called Electrick that, they say, can do just that.

"For the first time, we've been able to take a can of spray paint and put a touch screen on almost anything," Chris Harrison, an assistant professor at the university's Human-Computer Interaction Institute, said in a press release.

It's as simple as adding a conductive coating, such as special paint, to an object and then putting sensing electrodes around the edges of the area you want to make interactive, say the researchers. You can even add a protective coating. To sense the placement of touch, they use a technique called electric field tomography.

Researchers were able to add touch sensing to everything from the body of a guitar to a steering wheel to a Jell-O mold resembling a brain. The tech has been used to create an interactive smartphone case, as well as a game controller that enables you to change where the buttons are based on what you're playing or your preferences.

The researchers are presenting Electrick at a conference in Denver this week.