'Ubice': Nokia builds a touchscreen made of ice (w/ Video)

Nov 23, 2010 by Lin Edwards report

(PhysOrg.com) -- Nokia researchers in Finland have created a massive touchscreen display from a wall made of blocks of ice, dubbed ubiquitous ice or "Ubice."

Scientists at the Nokia Research Center in Tampere in Finland projected images on a wall made of blocks of ice 25 cm thick and 50 cm square, and used near-infrared projectors and cameras to determine the position and movements of the hands of users, who saw what looked like flames or colored lights in the ice.

The aim of the project was to demonstrate "," the principle of incorporating computers into everyday objects. In Finland, river ice is in plentiful supply in winter, and the researchers hired a local contractor at Oulu to collect a tonne of river ice, which was then chopped into square blocks using a chainsaw and ice sculpting tools. The blocks were then assembled to create a wall of ice two meters wide and 1.5 meters high. Water or snow was applied to the joints, and then a heat gun (like a paint stripping gun) was used to smooth the ice wall surface.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
Ubice installation

An array of near-infrared lights, near-infrared cameras, and a digital projector were positioned behind the ice wall and focused on the front surface. When a user places a hand on the front of the ice wall the invisible near-infrared light is reflected back to the cameras, which transmit the signals to a nearby computer. The computer then uses information from the signals to track the precise position, size and movements of the hand. The digital projector then projects an image of colored light or flames that appears to the user to be in the ice beneath the hand.

The system worked best with bare hands, but also worked with gloved hands. The cold ambient temperature (-15°C) kept the ice wall intact even in the face of the heat generated by the projector, and team member Antti Virolainen said it was much more interesting seeing what looked like flames inside ice than in a plastic screen.

Nokia scientist Jyri Huopaniemi said the team had been asked to explore novel interfaces, multimedia and software approaches, and while the experiment was “playful” it showed interactive computing interfaces could be built anywhere. The concept could be used in cold countries as interactive ice sculptures, by hotels such as that in Jukkasjärvi in Sweden, or for advertising.

The Ubice was introduced last week in Saarbrucken, Germany at the Interactive Tabletops and Surfaces conference.

Explore further: Bringing history and the future to life with augmented reality

Related Stories

Winter Sea Ice Fails to Recover, Down to Record Low

Apr 06, 2006

Scientists at NSIDC announced that March 2006 shows the lowest Arctic winter sea ice extent since the beginning of the satellite record in 1979 (see Figures 1 and 2). Sea ice extent, or the area of ocean that ...

Study: Less ice on New England rivers

Nov 08, 2005

Federal scientists say there's increasing evidence the number of days of ice on northern New England rivers have declined significantly in recent decades.

Melting ice prompts navigation warning

Oct 29, 2007

The U.S.-based International Ice Charting Working Group predicted significant navigation hazards will develop as Arctic sea ice diminishes.

'Webcam' from Space: Envisat observing Wilkins Ice Shelf

Dec 12, 2008

In light of recent developments that threaten to lead to the break-up of the Wilkins Ice Shelf, ESA is making daily satellite images of the ice shelf available to the public via the 'Webcam' from Space web ...

Recommended for you

Patent talk: Google sharpens contact lens vision

Apr 16, 2014

(Phys.org) —A report from Patent Bolt brings us one step closer to what Google may have in mind in developing smart contact lenses. According to the discussion Google is interested in the concept of contact ...

Neuroscientist's idea wins new-toy award

Apr 15, 2014

When he was a child, Robijanto Soetedjo used to play with his electrically powered toys for a while and then, when he got bored, take them apart - much to the consternation of his parents.

Land Rover demos invisible bonnet / car hood (w/ video)

Apr 14, 2014

(Phys.org) —Land Rover has released a video demonstrating a part of its Discover Vision Concept—the invisible "bonnet" or as it's known in the U.S. the "hood" of the car. It's a concept the automaker ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (1) Nov 23, 2010
So that's why they're going out of business.
1 / 5 (1) Nov 23, 2010

I mean it.

More news stories

Growing app industry has developers racing to keep up

Smartphone application developers say they are challenged by the glut of apps as well as the need to update their software to keep up with evolving phone technology, making creative pricing strategies essential to finding ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.