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Tactile sensor that can recognize 2D gestures and symbols.
This month is European proptech month at proptechaweek and you can’t really do a European proptech tour without visiting the European industrial powerhouse Germany. Today we will take a closer look at Taxel, a Berlin startup that has the ambition to change the smart home through the use of haptic communication.
Taxel is an early-stage startup that has developed a tactile sensor that can recognize 2D gestures and symbols. Unlike other haptic technologies like eg the one found in your phone, it reacts based on pressure instead of electrical conduction. This means the sensor also works when you use it with dirty fingers or with gloves.
This and the fact that Taxel is able to integrate its sensor into surfaces and furniture makes it a good fit for smart home solutions.
imagery by taxel
The current phone-centered state of technology leads to screen fatigue and there is definitely an opportunity for a solution that lets you operate your smart-home without sliding out your phone. Seamless integration in surfaces and the possibility to configure multiple gestures that trigger a wide range of actions is definitely a plus compared to solutions that rely on buttons to provide similar functionality.
Compared to smart-speakers this tech provides a solution that is more privacy-friendly, works reliably in environments with a lot of noise, and doesn’t trigger accidentally.
imagery by taxel
However, there aren’t only upsides to a “‘gesture interface”, one of the biggest downsides seems to be discoverability. The richness in possible symbols that can be used without a way to discover which gesture leads to which action can lead to inaction. Not unlike smart speakers that suffer the same weakness the risk is that real usage remains sparse and gimmicky.
The technology that Taxel is trying to commercialize is the result of research at the Institute of Robotics and Process Control from the Technische Universität Braunschweig. The company was founded by Florian Lehmann, Silvan Ehrhardt, and Paula Ehrhardt. Even though the company is only active since 2019, it seems to have already garnered a lot of early traction. It won second place at the SmartHome Deutschland Award (category Best startup) and was selected for the disruptors.ai boot camp.
There are many interesting ways in which humans can interface with their surroundings and the smart surfaces space make good use of this diversity. The first class of competitors to Taxel comes in the form of the smart buttons. Notable examples are bt.tn, flic hub, and Knocki. Knocki, in particular, comes close to the functionality that Taxel provides. Instead of pushing the Knocki, you attach it to a surface, and the Knocki registers any pattern of knocks that were made on the surface. In fact, making the surface smart adding a digital layer to an analog object.
Another way to make surfaces smart is by combining it with another material. Leading the way in this space is Bare Conductive a company that sells kits that enable you to make your own custom interactive wall. An even cooler way to create the same experience is pioneered by Hypersurfaces they add intelligence to surfaces by detecting specific vibrations and analyzing them in real-time. The result is very impressive…
The possibilities of this technology for user interface and data gathering seems limitless.
Last week 2020 Virtual Demo Day for DISRUPTORS.ai took place with two great #proptech startups… you already have seen at least of them… EYnovation also held their Real-Estate & Construction Launchpad Meetup for Belgium last week… the winner was Yazzoom… Hover raised $60 million another example of how computer vision in proptech is the place to be right now….