Aug. 22 - ''Surfing the web'' has taken on new meaning at a university in Tokyo where scientists have turned bath-water into a touch screen. Bathers can add new depth to their cleansing experience by manipulating the water to browse a website, watch a movie or even play games. Rob Muir reports.
It's bath time at the University of Electro-communication in Tokyo. After twelve months of experimentation, scientists have managed to turn bath water into an interactive touch screen. Team leader Professor Hideki Koike says it's an idea perfectly suited to the the times. SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) PROFESSOR AT THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF INFORMATION SYSTEMS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ELECTRO-COMMUNICATIONS, HIDEKI KOIKE, SAYING: "The bathtub is a place where you can really relax and I think people had nothing to do while in the tub. We believe you can now read a book or when you are busy in the morning, you can quickly read the papers and watch the morning dramas before going to work." For the liquid touch screen to work, bath salts are added to make the water opaque. Predetermined hand and finger movements in the water are mapped in real time by a Microsoft Kinect depth camera which sends the signals to a computer. The computer then translates the signals into instructions for an overhead projector which displays the images on the water's surface. With a scoop of water or the poke of a finger, images can be manipulated just as they are on conventional screens allowing access to email, websites or interactive games. Koike says it's not only practical, its also educational. SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) PROFESSOR AT THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF INFORMATION SYSTEMS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ELECTRO-COMMUNICATIONS, HIDEKI KOIKE, SAYING: "The parent can spend time and educate their child at the same time in the tub now. You can show simple quiz questions on the surface of the water and you can even tell your child 'you can't get out of the tub until you answer all the questions' and I think there might be such fun applications." The team also sees potential for their system in aquatic amusement parks and for pool-based physical rehabilition. But they're currently in talks with bathroom manufacturers, aiming at a market where they hope they can clean up