Beyond 2D Touchscreens: Researchers Develop Interactive Displays That Adapt to Any Shape

July 06, 2020 by Luke James

A team of researchers at Bristol University has developed an interactive display that can be sprayed in any shape.

Think that touchscreens are limited to being two-dimensional and rectangular in shape? Think again! A team of researchers at Bristol University in England has challenged this idea by developing an interactive spray-on display product called ProtoSpray.

It can be sprayed into any shape to create novel touchscreens. ProtoSpray uses a novel combination of 3D printing and sprayable electronics to create displays on surfaces that go far beyond the norm. 


Inspired by Graffiti Artists

Inspired by the way graffiti artists spray their designs on walls, the research team says that ProtoSpray has "…liberated displays from their 2D rectangular casings by developing a process to build interactive objects of any shape," says Ollie Hanton, Ph.D. student, and lead author.

Also, since ProtoSpray enables users to create objects without experience or expertise, it's considered quite accessible. 


Protospray material that can be molded into any shape.

The ProtoSpray opens up the potential to create interactive objects of various shapes. Image credited to Bristol University


Creative Freedom

Developed in collaboration with researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Hanton's innovative process provides everyone from casual makers and hobbyists to researchers and design engineers to develop creative, interactive devices and objects that can take the form of any shape. 

According to the research team, the team's EPSRC-funded research aimed to broaden the scope of how people can interact with digital technologies.

"3D printers have enabled personal fabrication of objects, but our work takes this even further to where we print not only plastic but also other materials essential for creating displays," said Hanton. "Our vision is to make screen/display a fundamental expressive medium in the same way people currently use ink, paint, or clay."

The team's next step is to create some machine or process that can 3D print and spray automatically onto the 3D printed objects.