Midas: Fabricating Custom Capacitive Touch Sensors to Prototype Interactive Objects

Valkyrie Savage, Xiaohan Zhang and Björn Hartmann
ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology (2012)

Abstract

An increasing number of consumer products include user interfaces that rely on touch input. While digital fabrication techniques such as 3D printing make it easier to prototype the shape of custom devices, adding interactivity to such prototypes remains a challenge for many designers. We introduce Midas, a software and hardware toolkit to support the design, fabrication, and programming of flexible capacitive touch sensors for interactive objects. With Midas, designers first define the desired shape, layout, and type of touch sensitive areas, as well as routing obstacles, in a sensor editor. From this high-level specification, Midas automatically generates layout files with appropriate sensor pads and routed connections. These files are then used to fabricate sensors using digital fabrication processes, e.g., vinyl cutters and conductive ink printers. Using step-by-step assembly instructions generated by Midas, designers connect these sensors to the Midas microcontroller, which detects touch events. Once the prototype is assembled, designers can define interactivity for their sensors: Midas supports both record-and-replay actions for controlling existing local applications and WebSocket-based event output for controlling novel or remote applications. In a first-use study with three participants, users successfully prototyped media players. We also demonstrate how Midas can be used to create a number of touch-sensitive interfaces.