TouchWood puts versatile, unobtrusive interfaces inside your desk, table and walls – TechCrunch

TouchWood puts versatile, unobtrusive interfaces inside your desk, table and walls – TechCrunch

Everything we do seems to be connected to an app these days, and all day they vie for your attention, pinging and glowing in their needy ways. TouchWood wants to tone down this grueling competition without interruption with a quiet, simplified surface that is built right into the natural material of your desk or wall.

Co-founders Matthew Dworman and Gaurav Asthana were fed up with the idea that there is usually more to making your home or workplace smarter stuff: A smart speaker that sits on your desk, a smart clock that shows you your step count at all times, a smart refrigerator that integrates advertising into your morning routine. Not only that, but these devices and apps are constantly pulling you away from what you want to do, whether it works or tries Not work.

They wanted (they told me) something like Lord of the Rings’ enchanted sword Sting: it’s just a sword 99 percent of the time, but it’s also an orc radar when and when you need it, and even then it just shines. Why doesn’t the digital world appear only when you need it, and in the least intrusive way?

Dworman previously worked in high-end furniture design and, with Asthana, developed the idea of ​​interacting with technology via “a wooden panel instead of an app,” as they put it.

Credit: TouchWood

“We have developed a modular technology platform that uses high-intensity LEDs with capacitive touch detection. This allows us to embed it in essentially opaque material, ”Dworman explained. “The wall, the countertop, the desk, the home, the office, the retail and transportation, we see so many ways to provide information and completely invisible controls.”

The interface would appear completely normal with the display off, and it is. Mui Labs, which was demonstrating its own display of natural materials at CES, needs a specially perforated wood surface that you probably don’t want to spill coffee on. A TouchWood display is exactly that: wood – or many other common surface materials.

A TouchWood surface in action. (The lines are an artifact of the camera’s frame rate.)

It is not intended as a second display, but as a friendly overflow for the avalanche of information that is shown to us via our desktops, laptops and telephones … and via loudspeakers, clocks, coffee machines, robot dogs, etc.

“We’re not trying to stick a computer into a surface. We want to provide you with a better point of contact for your existing devices to improve their functionality by reducing the information pressures placed on them,” said Asthana.

Credit: TouchWood

Maybe, like me, you keep your eyes on the tabs in your browsers or the apps at the bottom of the screen to see if there’s any change – a new email, a message on Slack, a calendar item. A TouchWood desk lets these notifications take alternative routes, e.g. B. a glowing circle in which to put your coffee or your mouse. Tap on it there and get a summary, or go to or swipe to the content – but you never have to switch tabs or switch to another app or unlock your phone. And when it’s done, the desk is just a piece of wood again.

Dworman sees the transition as natural. “Touchscreens as we know them have only been around for 10 or 11 years. But because they’re so ubiquitous, we take them for granted, ”he said. “If you watch science fiction films, this technology will continue to be used for 500 years! But it shouldn’t be. In terms of the car, the iPhone is what it is now, like the T. “

Ultimately, TouchWood should be a platform, but first it has to bring its own product to market. There are plans to have a nice sit / stand desk with two large display areas for somewhere in the $ 2,000 region by next year. Expensive, yes – but you’d be surprised at what people love to spend on new furniture, especially an important part of a newly important home office.

After proving the concept with a flagship product, they can work their way into other niches and work with partners. Embedding an invisible display in a countertop, wall or, of course, a restaurant table leads to all kinds of use cases. We hope that TouchWood’s technology leads to a future with slightly fewer screens – at least those we can see.

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