Theremin technology in touchless display

I just saw news in several news sources (check the links on this article to get to them) that STMicroelectronics wants to lure more contracts from the world’s biggest phone-makers with a new trick: touchless screens. The new display is the touch screen, except that it does not touch, but fingers are several centimeters above the screen. Touchless touch screen gives you control without contact (video) article has even a video of the technology.

At this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, chipmaker STMicroelectronics is showcasing screen technology that works by just hovering your hand a few inches away from the surface. Users don’t have to touch a screen (just hover your fingers over screen) to flip through an e-book or surf the Web. No more finger smudges.

It’s the latest in mobile technology, but it was inspired by an invention done nearly a hundred years ago: There was a nice musical instrument invented in 1919 by a Russian guy called Theremin. With Threremin instrument you could play music with your hands by hovering above it, without even touching the device. “That’s how we came up with the idea.”

There’s nothing special about the touch screen itself, but rather about the controller chip that manages the panel. Rather than monitoring contact with the screen, the chip observes the electrical field that the tablet’s touch screen is giving off: If your finger makes its way into that electrical field, the circuit is closed and your “touch” is registered.

This new STMicro’s hover screen technology will be used later this year in a multimedia tablet, but who makes it was not revealed yet (STMicroelectronics customer list includes Samsung, Apple, Nokia and Blackberry). STMicroelectronics calls its chip tech Fingertip, and the demo system was up and running on a Nexus 7 tablet. I think that STMicroelectronics will be trying to persuade smartphone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung to use its controller chips in upcoming smartphones.

Those who can’t wait for the hover-screen devices can try their hand now on the theremin. There are many plans you can find on Internet by just making Google search with keywords “theremin circuit”. The 2006 Minimum Theremin looks to be worth to check out design using quite modern components. More theremin plans can be found at Theremin World. To get introduction how to play them watch Theremin Lesson One video.

ThereminVision is a robotic sensing system that uses the same basic principle as the world’s first electronic musical instrument, the Theremin. There was a good web site on that ThereminVision at, but this site does not seem to exist anymore. Fortunately Internet Archive has archived the site so the information is not lost. This ThereminVision is interesting idea that I have even tested. Check the ThereminVision material to get idea on using the technology for sensing applications.

What do you think of the no-touching touch screen? Just a new gimmick or enabler of new applications?


  1. Jean Noel says:

    The Theremin was so great !
    I realy love vacuum tubes based realizations.
    Here you can see my own invention Nemopsys3D in action:

    tribute to teheremin a real great inventor !

    Jean Noel

  2. Salvatore Prendergast says:

    What do you guess on how much math one needs to study Quantum Field Theory?

  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Using a Theremin for Medical Applications

    [Eswar] is not an ordinary 16 years old boy. He figured out a noninvasive way to measure breathing in hospitals for less than $50. He is using a theremin to measure the rise and fall of a patient’s chest.

    The ThereNIM: A touch-less respiratory monitor


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *