SenseSurface - Girton Labs Cambridge





What next after the Mouse?


 17th August 2008


3 Dimensional touch control surface for PCs, music synthesisers, printed books, etc , Patent filed.

 Designed and built by Lyndsay Williams July 2008 contact






 This laptop has the top row of knobs replaced with real physical controls.


What happened to traditional knobs for volume controls on computers? Replaced with  + and - controls on the keyboard, not so easy to find in a hurry.

Imagine a control surface with real knobs, sliders, real switches for your favourite music player, video editor  or game. Imagine being able to set the time on a clock by just moving the fingers on the clock face. This is SenseSurface, just place the unique controls on your application e.g. a music mixer, and ready to go.

Applications that would normally use a mouse or Qwerty keyboard can be now controlled with traditional knobs. The scroll bar on the right hand side of your computer screen can be controlled with a real slider button.  SenseSurface can be used with most laptops with a USB input.  The sensing knobs have a custom designed  movement sensor to determine position within a range of 180 degrees with a 10 bit digital output, linearity typically 1%. The  magnetic knobs can be removed and repositioned immediately by picking them up and moving to a different part of screen.  A unique sensing x/y matrix  is attached to the rear of the laptop screen to detect the control's position. The distance of the sensor from the screen can also be detected.  The rotary controls are low friction and there are no screen finger prints as with normal touch surfaces. Linear sliders and switches  can also be used on the lcd surface.  For audio use, a logarithmic response can be programmed. The system is multitouch and scaleable , the number  of controls on the screen is  limited by the size of the screen. The screen can be at any angle. The SenseSurface should cost less than $100 in production.


SenseSurface Applications

  • Mouse/ keyboard functions
  • PC volume, brighness, contrast control
  • word processing, screen scrolling
  • Music recording/playback (via MIDI), DJs
  • video editing
  • Games
  • Flight Simulators
  • Military
  • Medical
  • Reduce RSI in hand
  • Rotary controls for data input spreadsheets -see image below


 What the press say about  SenseSurface  Here


Below - Close up of 3D control knobs on top row compared to flat surface of a normal laptop.




Below - Video of demonstration working potentiometer prototype connected to oscilloscope

10 turn black dial,25.4mm Lx25.4mm dia 

Prototype control knob (RS)

 The knob had a fixed base which attached to the screen and the knob rotates within the base.


 Hall Effect sensor shown on 2pence coin, sensor attached to rear of laptop

3D CAD design for control knob

3D CAD design for switch 

3D CAD design for control knob


SenseSurface Receiver which houses Hall Effect Sensor



 or  click here to view video





Aug 17th : SurfaceSurface (patent filed) can aso be used to set mechanical fingers on clocks and rotary dials . Current clients include interactive book publishers and aircraft displays.


Ixp-note - time sensitive paper using sensesurface to set reminders - more here




Market Research here

FAQ 17  Aug 2008



Q. What is status of SenseSurface?

 A. SenseSurface is a working demonstration prototype, and we are looking for interested business partners and manufacturers preferable in the UK. Patent filed.

 Q. What technology is used by SenseSurface?

A. The Hall Effect as here. A linear Hall Effect sensor is used.


 Q. What applications will work with SenseSurface?

A. Any application that uses a mouse or MIDI.  The goal is for the Surface to be plaform for any application  rather like a mouse can be used. Graphic surfaces on LCDs or printed books can be used.


Q. How is it attaching to the screen - is the connection magnetic? 

A.  yes


Q. Is an LCD screen affected by magnets?

A. We have found no documented evidence yet that it does, and a SenseSurface  magnet has been soaked tested for a several 100 hours on a Dell laptop with no ill effect.


Q. What sort of feedback do you get from the screen?

A. The LCD is updated as if controlled by a mouse.


Q. How are you communicating with the computer? And what kind of data is

it able to send?

A.  USB, mouse command and MIDI (not implemented yet)


Q. What other controls and surfaces can be used?

A. We are testing  switches, sliders, pressure controlled analog touch switches, squeezy knobs and balls, textured rubber, vibration feedback.  Surfaces such as glass, paper, plastic, and non magnetic can be used.


Q. Is it possible for the pc application to identify each knob or control, e.g. a chess piece?

A. Yes.


 Q. What previous work have you done in digital audio and music synthesiser design?

A. Please see here for my designs in 1970s-1990s, for wok including analog music synthesisers and digital sound samplers.  Click here for a short PowerPoint Presentation.








Email Lyndsay Williams, for more details. Viewings at Girton Labs, Cambridge, UK.