innovation research

Andrew Fentem is an innovation and engineering expert who has done pioneering work on smart objects, tangible computer interfaces, planar robotics, advanced touchscreens, smartwatches, and knowledge management software.

As the inventor of several early multi-touch interface technologies, Andrew acted as an expert in the major patent dispute between Apple and Samsung - He was also interviewed about associated controversies -

Prior to all of this, Andrew worked in research at Cambridge University and London Business School - studying the management of innovation and the psychology of inventors.

Andrew has been asked to appear on a number of TV shows related to business, technology, and education - in the US, UK, and Japan. He currently lives in the UK, and enjoys writing about innovation and politics.


'Obsolete' skills can come back into vogue - Financial Times, 14 August 2016 -

Fear and Brexit in Tech City : Digital 'elite' are having a nervous breakdown - The Register, 30 June 2016 -

Patent trolls, innovation and Brexit: What the FT won't tell you - The Register, 15 June 2016 -

My savings, not government, funded multitouch research - Financial Times, 7 August 2013 -

Surface computers: debunking Microsoft and Han - The Register, 8 June 2007 -

Why Microsoft's innovation is only Surface deep - The Register, 1 June 2007 -

Uninventing the Bomb - New Scientist, 9 March 1996 p46 -


Showcase of UK Digital Creativity - UK Government Digital Catapult, Autumn 2015 -

Andrew Fentem: Why I went to quango to fund pre-iPhone touch tech - The Register, 20 December 2013 -

Magic Cube Heralds the Future of Gaming and Human Interfaces - Gizmodo, 8 January 2008 -

Touch cube points to future toys - BBC News, 25 December 2007 -

selection of press coverage:

"...the ridiculously gifted Andrew Fentem." - Trend Hunter

"Andrew Fentem...went from working on classified missile systems to developing multi-touch human interfaces, kinetic surfaces and motion sensing technologies before almost anyone else in the world...The Fentix Cube is just the tip of the iceberg of his stunning work." - Gizmodo

Low-cost actuators could work with many materials - Professional Engineering - Journal of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, August 2015 p4 -

Flick Pixels: Wallpaper for the Internet of Things - Imperica, 31 July 2015 -

Fake History Alert: Sorry BBC, but Apple really did invent the iPhone - The Register, 9 January 2017 - _sorry_bbc_but_apple_really_did_invent_the_iphone/

How Britain had iPhone technology before Apple, but Quango handed our advantage to the competition - The Daily Mail, 14 December 2013 -

How Britain could have invented the iPhone: And how the Quangocracy cocked it up - The Register, 13 December 2013 -

'Ware Next? - 360 Magazine - August 2008 p91-95

Future of gaming: World's First Multi-Touch Games Platform - Trend Hunter, 29 February 2008 -

Big In 2008: Multi-touch toys - Stuff Magazine - January 2008 p82

Fentix Cube: If Rubik was smarter, had multi-touch - Engadget, 19 October 2007 -

Touch Screen Technology - DJ Mag - April 2004 p98

Paris: close encounters of the woodland kind - The Daily Telegraph, Fashion Section, 6 March 2004 -

academic publications:

Evolving Spatial Representations to Support Innovation and the Communication of Strategic Knowledge - Knowledge-Based Systems 11, p417-428, Elsevier, 1998 - (This paper summarises some of Andrew's unsubmitted PhD research, and explains the psychology and philosophy behind the SpaceMan software system.)

Building Electronic Totems to Manage Automotive Concept Development - Managing New Product Innovation, p30-37, CRC Press, 1998 -


1982 : Mini-Synthesiser
Ref. Electronic Synthesiser Projects, M K Berry, 1981.

1983-84 : Digitally-Controlled Analogue Music Synthesis System
Synthesiser sequencing software, drum machine programming software, score visualisation software, drum synthesiser hardware, and computer-synthesiser interface hardware. Ref. E&MM, 1983.

1984-85 : Fully Digital Sound Synthesis System
Hardware and software for sound sampling, processing, synthesis, mixing, waveform visualisation/manipulation etc. DSP algorithms for artificial reverberation, pitch-shifting, modulation, Fourier synthesis etc. written in Z80 machine code and assembly language. Ref. Musical Applications of Microprocessors, Hal Chamberlin, 1980.

1986 : Modular Electronics Prototyping and Tuition System
For Thorn EMI Electronics Ltd, London.

1986-92 : Defence Systems Research and Development
Various classified R&D projects related to advanced military and defence systems, for Thorn EMI Electronics Ltd, London.

1989-90 : High-Speed Digital Logic Analysis System
Design and testing of a specialised large-scale integrated circuit (ie. a 'microchip'), PC interfacing hardware, and waveform generation/recording/visualisation/analysis software (written in C). Awarded the Wiley Publishing prize for best thesis.

1993 : Evaluation of an Internet-Based Shared Virtual Workspace
UX research for an early form of multi-media Internet conferencing system - with multiple video links, shared white-boards and remote sharing of virtual documents - built by UCL Computer Science Department. Published as: 'Interacting with Multi-Media, Multi-User Systems: Observations on Multi-Media Conferencing Tools', Angela Sasse and Andrew Fentem, Proc ECCE-7 Seventh European Conference on Cognitive Ergonomics, Bonn, 1994.

1994 : Monitoring Data Packets
Software for managing traffic on Reuters's financial data and news network (written in Pascal).

1994-2000 : PhD research - Knowledge Management Systems to Support Innovation - SpaceMan
PhD research and development of SpaceMan software - a spatial hypertext knowledge management platform. The research was carried out at London Business School, Cambridge University's Judge Institute, UCL's Computer Science Department, and in collaboration with BMW/Rover Group. SpaceMan (written in C++, VB, and Java) was a bit like Pinterest, but it also had flexible nested spaces, maps, a bit of AI, data visualisation, object clustering/graphing algorithms, and novel metaphors. SpaceMan systems were commercially spun out into a management consultancy and Unilever plc. Some of the theoretical work was published by Elsevier as: 'Evolving Spatial Representations to Support Innovation and the Communication of Strategic Knowledge', Knowledge-Based Systems 11, 1998, p417-428. It can be downloaded at -

2000-2016 : Novel Interface Technologies and Electronic Devices
While studying innovation and software at Cambridge, Andrew became interested in obscure hardware technologies. He found that he was unable to sufficiently interest public research bodies, smartphone manufacturers, or universities in the potential of technologies such as multi-touch, so he decided to fund and execute some hardware R&D projects himself.

Some of the technologies that he went on to pioneer - such as multi-touch touchscreens, virtual music controllers, and wireless smartwatches - are now mainstream mass-market technologies; while other inventions - such as the Fentix Cube and modular computing devices - inspired a number of commercial products and academic research programmes - e.g.

Most of these R&D projects required the development of novel sensor and actuator hardware components and architectures; they were controlled by Motorola microprocessors running proprietary software (written in embedded C). Patent application documents, detailed technical descriptions, photos, and videos are available - for more information please use the contact details below. Images of various projects are also available at, and a few videos are available at

Multi-Touch Systems:
Unique approaches to multiple touch detection, tracking multiple passive objects, and software to enable hardware products to use this touch data. The most successful of these touchscreen projects were: an ultra-high-speed touchscreen (2001), various multi-touch music controllers (2002-2004) -, various interactive flooring systems (2002-2004), the world's first multi-touch and orientation-aware tangible computing platforms e.g. the Fentix Cube (2007) -, and various other multi-touch modular computing platforms (2007-2010) -

Planar Robotics, Kinetic Surfaces, and Planar Manipulators:
Innovative technologies for moving objects across flat surfaces using computer-controllable magnetic fields (2000-2005) - This long-term research project resulted in the creation of many exotic experimental robotic systems and, ultimately, the Flick Pixels technology - mechatronic wallpaper display systems for the Internet of Things (2014-15) - Flick Pixel systems were exhibited at the UK government's Digital Catapult Centre to showcase UK digital creativity -; the technology has now been licensed by a consortium of manufacturing and marketing companies who are working on a range of products for consumer and industrial applications.

Miscellaneous Projects:
Other experimental electronic hardware devices and products:
Optically-Reprogrammable Computing Devices - Very small computer hardware devices reprogrammed and customised via flashing graphics on webpages (2004).
Smartwatch - Smartwatch with an OLED screen, Zigbee wireless networking, and some simple apps (2004) -
Musical Key Detecting Device - DSP-based Fourier transformation harmonic analysis DJ gadget - capable of identifying keys in musical recordings etc. (2005).
Haptic Interfaces - Various haptic computer interfaces, and vibration-based communication and navigation systems (2006).
POV Display Systems - Combination of robotics, moving strips of LEDs, and the persistence-of-vision (POV) effect - to display information without the need for a conventional screen (2009).
Interactive Projectors - Animated light projections interacting with each other via a reflective wall (2010).
TilePad - A tangible interactive display screen created out of tiny movable display tiles (2010).
Muscle Light - Touch-responsive shape-memory alloy actuator (2010) -
Programmable Neon - Internet-of-Things-connected domestic lighting and information display device (2016) -


Towards the end of the 1980s Andrew briefly attended art college. In 2004 he worked with the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen - integrating small computers and digitally-controlled lighting into dresses and shoes for McQueen's Paris couture show Autumn/Winter 2004 - See also -
Andrew's tangible multi-touch music controller, and LED Eyes pieces, have been exhibited by Kinetica Museum in London


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