Waterproofing your iPhone so you can check your email in the shower might be cool chemistry, but it's old hat by now. Transforming your entire bathtub into a touchscreen, on the other hand, well, that's another matter entirely.
A Kinect sensor, a projector, and some bath salts (to make the liquid opaque) is all the AquaTop display system needs to turn any tub of water into a virtual screen surface. The Tokyo-based research team at the University of Electro-Communications' Koike Laboratory points out that typical touchscreens, being disappointingly solid, limit the ways in which a person can interact with a virtual object.
Haptic feedback technology can approximate physical interaction, but there's nothing like being able to scoop up an "object" and dump it somewhere else, like you can with the AquaTop. The AquaTop display concept makes use of the properties of a liquid medium with a whole new vocabulary of gestures, as shown off in a demo video from the research team.
While it's unlikely that the AquaTop will make it into production as a consumer product--after all, water and electronics rarely get along this well together in real life--the concept makes for a fascinating example of how ordinary household objects could become virtual media. The simplicity of the components means the display could also be incorporated beautifully into interactive art pieces, like this one from ART+COM or Antonin Forneau's LED Water Light Graffiti installation.
In the meantime, I guess I'll keep storing my Kindle in a Zip-loc.