Even before the pandemic, self-checkout touchscreens and ATMs posed a serious problem — a 2018 study by London Metropolitan University showed that fast food restaurant touchscreens harbor all sorts of unwanted, and potentially harmful, bacteria.
Now, amidst the renewed focus on public hygiene brought on by COVID-19, a company has unveiled a possible solution.
Shizuoka-based Murakami Corporation, working in partnership with Parity Innovations, has developed a contact-free hologram control system for high-tech Japanese toilets that has the potential to scale up for use in a wide variety of public interfaces.
According to a press statement released by Murakami Corporation, the control panel, called the Floating Pictogram Technology (FPT), uses "next-generation 'air-floating image' optical technology."
FPT enables users to "press" hologram-like buttons without physically touching a panel, removing the need for them to come in contact with a surface that might be rife with bacteria.
Holographic control panels for improved public health
Key features of the contactless FPT system include a "bright and highly visible air floating image system." This is powered using spatial sensing technology that "narrows down the position of a finger in the air using a proprietary algorithm," Murakami's statement reads.
Importantly, the system is also easily configurable meaning it has the potential to be "deployed for multiple product applications."
The technology could be used to safeguard against future outbreaks by enhancing hygiene in a broad range of applications including public toilets, elevators, ATMs, self-checkout screens, and hospital registrations.
Murakami Corporation isn't the first firm to come up with a post-COVID-19 "touchless" touchscreen solution — in October 2020, Ultraleap announced a camera-enabled touchscreen that was similarly controlled using hand gestures.
Murakami announced that it has begun supplying samples of its FPT system to manufacturers and hospitals for evaluation. The firm expects its technology to be commercially available by 2022. Hopefully that means we will see the technology bolstering public health efforts in a post-pandemic.