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Nokia takes block of ice, two projectors and a chainsaw, makes touchscreen

This is either extremely cool or the most pointless experiment ever. Possibly both -- Nokia has created a touchscreen made out of a honking great slab of ice.

Nokia may be having a few problems with its phones, but as far as headline-grabbing stunts are concerned, it still has it. Those kerr-azy Finns have only taken a huge block of ice, and fashioned a working touchscreen out of it. Whatever next?

Finland is a tad chilly this time of year, so the raw material wasn't hard to find. Nokia researchers took a slab of river ice, used a chainsaw to cut it into square slabs and made it into an ice wall, the New Scientist reports. Two metres wide and 1.5 metres tall, the wall was blasted with a heat gun to make the surface smooth.

To turn the wall into a touchscreen, the experimentalists used rear-diffused illumination, the technology used for Microsoft Surface, which has been the table of the future for some years now. This works by shining an invisible light and focusing cameras on the back of the ice wall. If you use your hand to touch the front of the ice wall, it reflects the light towards the cameras.

Unlike most touchscreens, this means you can use it while wearing gloves -- rather more important in this case, at it was -15C.

The camera receives the signal, which is connected to a PC that can detect where your hand is and where's it's going. The PC is connected to another projector, which uses the data it receives to project imagery beneath your hand. Flaws in the ice limit how accurately your hand can be located, however.

It goes to show you can stick this sort of touchscreen technology anywhere. Microsoft Surface has already been used in areas such as medicine, education, banking and gaming, not to mention for controlling robots.

As far as ice-made touchscreens goes, we're not too sure if there are many practical applications for it, unless you're a regular at London's Icebar, or possibly a certain rotund gentleman residing at the North Pole and looking to futurise your gift-distribution IT infrastructure.

Image credit: Engadget