Wouldn't it be helpful if a food or recipe tracking app could determine what you're eating by simply detecting what's on your table?
You could make your wish come true. Researchers from Microsoft and several universities they developed Capacitive, a smart fabric system capable of detecting food, drinks and other objects based solely on touch.
A clever tablecloth?
The cloth uses the combination of a capacitive electrode grid and machine learning to measure both the material and shape of a given object.
The smart fabric also works with some containers, including glasses and bowls.
The quest to get Capacitive
Researchers initially incorporated the technology into a tablecloth and developed it specifically for cooking. A cooking app could suggest a meal based on the ingredients that are placed on the table. The researchers who developed the Capacitive smart fabric also imagined it as a memory aid. It may remind you to grab the earphones before you walk out the door or remind you to clean if you leave a bowl empty.
Capacitive: grow well that I review
The initial project has limitations. It doesn't recognize metal objects and doesn't work as well with books or other objects with square edges. Likewise, it has problems with credit cards and other items that don't have a clear recognizable imprint.
Some drinks do not produce reliable results, don't expect this smart fabric to know the difference between an IPA beer and a stout.
More generally don't expect a smart tablecloth in the near future, albeit smart fabric technology has already made good progress and should improve further over time.
The team hopes to detect metal and enable haptic input, among other updates.
Hopefully, it could lead to a truly perfect smart home where you no longer need smart scales, scanners or other clunky methods to detect what's in the kitchen.