This Smart Mat Blends Physical Objects into the Digital World


A Hawaiian mat. Microsoft Developers are now developing a smart mat / Photo by: Hiart via Wikimedia Commons


American technology company Microsoft has introduced its latest research project called Project Zanzibar. It is a smart mat that can blend both physical and digital worlds by sensing objects, gestures, and touch. This is according to a Youtube video released by the Microsoft Research team.

The research team developed the project in Microsoft’s research laboratory in the UK. The output is a smart mat that combines sensing, multi-touch, and a near field communication, where users can put objects and play games on the mat and connect it to the digital screen.

The Microsoft video also demonstrates various games that track object orientation, movement, and position on the mat using NFC stickers placed on these objects. While the video shows basic games for augmented reality, programming and learning, it does show how the hardware mat can easily combine the Minecraft game using a real lego block object. Once stacked with NFC stickers, the smart mat translates the physical object into a Minecraft item. 

Microsoft claims the NFC to be a “novel way” of enabling the hover gesture and multitouch to coexist with physical control and object manipulation.

“Roll it up, stow it and break it out at a picnic or on a train trip. Or in any room in the house that has a screen,” said the team in its Project Zanzibar video description.