If you thought the 3D Cube was cool…

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The prototyped “3D touch panel.” A white circle is displayed on the area approached by a finger. The circle becomes larger as the finger moves closer to the panel.

Again from the guys at Tech-On in Japan (which is rapidly becoming my favourite web-site read of a morning), comes the 3D touch panel..

According to the Tech-On guys, “Mitsubishi Electric Corp prototyped a capacitive touch panel that can detect the distance between a finger and the panel and demonstrated it at Interaction 2009, which took place from March 5 to 6, 2009, in Tokyo. Mitsubishi Electric calls the touch panel ” 3D touch panel” because it can determine not only the x- and y- (plane) coordinates of a finger but also its z- (normal direction) coordinate. The prototype has a 5.7-inch screen with a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels (VGA). The prototype is based on a capacitive touch panel that is available on the market, and “only a few changes were made to it,” according to the spokesperson. Mitsubishi Electric just added switch elements to connect multiple sensors and improved the detection circuit to reduce its parasitic capacity.