They're short on details, but the folks at Cambridge Consultants might just be onto something with this new "Suma sensor system" of theirs. Basically it translates the deformation of its soft material into 3D data that can be used in a video game to "unleash the full capabilities of both the human hand and the user's imagination." Sounds a tad far fetched, but the exciting part is that this "Suma skin" control material can replace the traditional casing of a regular gaming controller for less than a buck in parts, meaning that with (relatively) little effort we could see tactile squeezing, gripping and other sorts of finger-friendly input worked into console gaming without having to bid farewell to the form factors we know and love. Cambridge Consultants doesn't mention robotics, but we could also see this sort of material being quite the cost-effective, sensor-laden skin replacement. Just as long as nobody tries to get us to control Ezio with that little stress-ball pictured above.

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Get a grip ... with Suma

Squeezable interface technology for games, internet and other computing applications offers a uniquely intuitive, high resolution 3D control experience for an additional US$1

Cambridge Consultants, a leading technology product design and development firm, today announced the launch of Suma, a uniquely intuitive yet very low-cost squeezable user-interface technology that creates a whole new way of interacting with computers. With nearly 60% of US households predicted to own 3D displays within 5 years*, Suma offers a full 3D highly sensitive control experience for gamers and others who expect a high degree of interaction.

The patent-pending Suma sensor system translates the three dimensional deformation of a squeezed object into a software-readable form. Enabling highly sensitive control by finger movements and whole-hand grip in this way means that Suma-based devices can capture far more of the degrees of freedom of the hand than conventional controller technologies, without the need for cumbersome gloves or sensors.

A Suma-based device is like a traditional gaming controller with the normal casework replaced by a 'Suma skin'. This incorporates the proprietary Suma sensor network at an incremental parts cost of less than US$1. Suma will enable companies developing a wide variety of products and applications - from gaming and design to music and creative arts - to unleash the full capabilities of both the human hand and the user's imagination.

"Our hands are extraordinary instruments for control and communication," explains Duncan Smith, head of Consumer Product Development at Cambridge Consultants. "One of our earliest instincts as babies is to grip and grasp, and about a quarter of the motor cortex of the human brain is devoted to the muscles of the hand. Yet current input devices for computers and games do not fully exploit these capabilities. Although gesture-based control is a huge step, even this does not convey the subtlety and flexibility of what our hands can do. By capturing that complexity, Suma enables product developers in a range of industries to greatly enhance the experience of their users, adding multidimensional interaction to both existing and new applications."

Cambridge Consultants is demonstrating a prototype gaming-controller based on the new squeezable Suma technology at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas from 7-10 January 2010 (South Hall 1, booth 21419E). As well as illustrating the performance and sensitivity of the technology, the demonstration will show just how exciting and intuitive Suma-based applications will be.

Duncan Smith continues: "Emerging trends like 3D displays and augmented reality are bound to stimulate interest in Suma's unique capabilities, where the emergence of next generation applications is limited only by the lack of suitable input devices. But it's also just as relevant and exciting for existing 2D applications and web-based services, where squeeze-to-click can now become squeeze-to-control."