Once upon a time, industrial designers, animators, graphic designers and illustrators physically used acetate or mylar sheets as overlays on drawings. Newer generations of creatives now understand this concept as Photoshop layers, which can easily be clicked on and off digitally. But now a team of researchers has combined the physical and digital with "a new thin-film, transparent sensing surface" they're calling FlexSense.
Developed in collaboration between two Austria-based outfits—the human-computer interaction researching Media Interaction Lab and the Institute for Surface Technologies and Photonics—and Microsoft Research, the FlexSense appears to be nothing more than a good ol' acetate overlay, albeit embedded with thin sensors. But since this sheet can precisely sense the manner in which the user is deforming it, when coupled with clever software this can lead to some interesting interactions. You can skip the first half of the video below, which is mostly egghead-speak, but be sure to tune in at 2:05 to see the proposed applications:
While the interface is probably too abstruse for your average consumer, it's easy to see applications that would be perfect for ID and other creative fields. I'd love to see Wacom buy this technology and incorporate it into their stuff.