Disney is attempting to redefine the way touch gestures are used and looking to use them with a variety of everyday objects, inlcuding tablets, liquids, door handles, your sofa and even the human body.
The Swept Frequency Capacitive Sensing (SFCS) technique - which has been named Touché - uses a single electrode embedded into an object and attached to a sensor to provide rich touch and gesture interactivity.
Disney's Research division, which published a paper on the technology, said it could also be used to improve the touchscreen capabilities of mobile devices.
"At the very minimum, this would enable a touch gesture similar to a mouse 'right click'," the research said. "Right click is a standard and useful feature in desktop GUI interfaces. However, it has proved to be elusive in contemporary touch interfaces, where it is typically implemented as a tap-and-hold."
Using the SFCS technology would allow fingers and thumbs to be detected in a number of different configurations.
For example, 'no touch' would be where the phone rests in the hand; 'thumb touch' would see the thumb applied to the front; 'one finger pinch' is where the phone is held between thumb and finger; while two finger pinch is where a second finger is applied to the back of the device.
Touché can also recognise when a user dips their fingers into water and can monitor the posture of a user sat at a table, based on whether their hands or elbows are touching the table top.
Unlike similar gesture control technologies that use a single frequency, Touché works by manipulating a number of different frequencies.
"We monitor the response to capacitive human touch over a range of frequencies. Objects excited by an electrical signal respond differently at different frequencies," the research explains. "Therefore, the changes in the return signal will also be frequency dependent. Thus instead of measuring a single data point for each touch event, we measure a multitude of data points at different frequencies."
As you can see in the video below, Disney has imagined some of the ways in which Touché could be used in everyday life. One idea suggests that using different touch gestures when opening or closing a door would lock it, seta message to say you'll be back in five minutes or tell you to enter quietly.
Another suggests claims that in the future touchscreens could be done away with completely, as you would become the controller for your phone or MP3 player. Using different gestures, people could answer a call or press pause on a music track.
Touché: Enhancing Touch Interaction on Humans, Screens, Liquids and Everyday Objects was published by Ivan Poupyrev (Disney Research Pittsburgh), in collaboration with Munehiko Sato (University of Tokyo) and Chris Harrison (HCII, Carnegie Mellon University).