The relatively inexpensive technology can scale to 55 inches or larger and is moving towards commercialization.

Inexpensive technology that turns regular displays into touchscreens is moving towards commercialization. ZeroTouch debuted at the Computer Human Interaction conference in 2011 and this year the displays have grown and the system has become more responsive. ZeroTouch uses an array of IR sensors to create a mesh of invisible light. When the beams are broken, the system interprets it as a point of contact.

Andruid Kerne, Associate Professor, Interface Ecology Lab, Texas A&M University

Last year the biggest sensor we showed was 27 inches and this year we were able to build ZeroTouch and integrate it a 55 inch television, which we think is a really valuable market because our system scales with cost linearly, while the capacitive sensing in the iPhone and iPad scales with a square of linear area.

The team showed a number of applications for ZeroTouch, like this multiplayer game. On this screen the spectator can select different views and swing around the action.

This demonstration uses a Microsoft Kinect camera to differentiate hands and fingers of various users. It’s designed for large scale use where multiple people might be categorizing content or completing a similar task.

Microsoft Surface may be the most popular name associated with tabletop computing, but because of size and price there hasn’t been mass adoption. ZeroTouch’s footprint is small and one of its biggest benefits is affordability.

Jon Moeller, Research Assistant, Interface Ecology Lab

So if you were to take a traditional 55 inch LCD TV at Best Buy it might cost you 1500 dollars, when you put a ZeroTouch sensor on there you might expect to pay 2100 or 2200 for that.

ZeroTouch is selling developer kits that start at 2,000 dollars and is looking for partners to eventually bring the product to market.

At CHI 2012 in Austin, Nick Barber, IDG News Service.