More on multitouch tabletop hardware

Ok, so I’ve sinced learned quite a bit about multi-touch hardware, and it’s suprising how "simple" it all is. Well, the concept is deceptively simple in comparison to how impressive the outcome is. So – here are some key elements you need to know:
The 5 different "kinds" of multi-touch technologies:
As you can see, Rear DI and DSI are the only ones that support reading fiducials, which are tags you can put on devices, which the camera can pick up. For example, see how the system recognizes the Zune on the right, in the picture below:
So really to me, there are two kinds of multi-touch: A) regular – which handles multiple touches, and gestures and B) DSI – which does all that, but supports finger pressure, can detect hovering, and can read fiducials.
If you’re building a multi-touch table – it seems to me, it really should be DSI, as those features would best be used there. For a laptop or desktop screen, those probably aren’t as important.
For MT tabletops, so what about build vs. buy, anyhow?
Well, it turns out the place to go, is this forum:
It has a pretty impressive collection of just regular people that know a whole lot about building multi-touch tables (like Microsoft Surface) – and many who have built several, so far! There is tons of information, including all the detailed specs of what didn’t work, what did work – and what’s the best approach – regardless of which MT technology you want to build.
So how much does it cost to build one, really? Well – it depends on a several things – but generally, it seems if you want an enclosed box, with no wires hanging out, and for it to work decent (and use DSI) – probably $1,500-2,000, if not more. A good chunk of that cost is the projector and the special acrylic you need. There are people who will build one for you too, but you have no idea of the quality, and it will typically take a month or two or more.
In talking with several people from that forum above – there were a few that were actively looking to start companies, to directly compete with Surface, for much cheaper. It’s my opinion that MT won’t take off until the developer has an easy, cheap way to work with the technology. So hopefully they also come out with a developer version of this!
With that said, there is a super easy, super cheap way you can get very basic multi-touch working (for development) with cardboard box – see this article (with pictures):
So as of right now, here are the choices:
  • Build it – with a cardboard box, for cheap but with no projector (~80)
  • Build it – and hopefully get it working (~$1,200)
  • Have someone build it – and not know how good the quality is going to be (~$2,000)
  • Buy it – SMART Table (~$8,000)
  • Buy it – Microsoft Surface (~$12,500)
As for me, I’m waiting for this HP TouchSmart tx2z to come in hopefully in the beginning of next week. I don’t assume that is DSI, but doing just ANY multi-touch for me now, is still new. So, I’ll dig in – see what Windows 7 can do with it (they tout, it natively supports multi-touch) – and then dig into the WPF multi-touch SDK.
There is soooo very little on the web on this topic, so I will try to report back here, so maybe someone else can benefit. So we’ll see…
Posted in Multi-Touch, Uncategorized

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