At the Hadrian Hotel

At the Hadrian Hotel

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Multi-touch User Interface

I just saw the most incredible demo here at ETech 06. Jeff Han from NYU showed their multi-touch user interface, "and the crowd went wild." The interface consists of an angled acrylic panel with a projector beneath it. There are LEDs shining light into the sides of the panel and when you touch the panel, your finger (or whatever you touch it with) scatters the internally reflected light which is then picked up by sensors beneath the panel. Their technique allows you to touch the panel at many points simultaneously, enabling a very complex yet intuitive user interface.

As you might imagine, it is possible for multiple people to use the interface at the same time, allowing new methods of collaboration and interaction. One of the demo applications was a game where the object is to move around nodes on a graph in order to eliminate crossed connection lines. Jeff had 2 game boards on the screen at the same time, allowing 2 people to play against each other (modulo enough processor power underneath to do all the math and re-drawing work).

Another demo app. was a type of photo album that allowed you to move images around, resize them by pinching or spreading your fingers, and rotate them by moving putting down 2 fingers and making a circular motion. Jeff them demonstrated the same type of application displaying live video streams (somewhere over 100 streams!). That one looked like a great way to watch everything on TV at once. :-)

Jeff also showed a drawing/animation application that allowed you to draw closed-loop shapes and then animate them by simply wiggling 1 or 2 fingers within the boundary of the shape.

The really cool application was a type of "Google Earth on steroids." Imagine everything you can do with Google Earth, but doing it by touching a screen with particular gestures. As Jeff "drilled down" on the image of the globe, the satellite imagery seamlessly gave way to detailed street maps with buttons allowing you to bring up additional information about the area you were looking at. Words really fail me at this point. If I've whetted your appetite, go to Jeff's page and look at the demo reel (MPEG or QuickTime).

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jeffchr said...

I watched this demo as well, and it was tremendous. I loved the consistent physics of the physical world translated to the interface (e.g. move to rotate, squish to make smaller, xyz coordinate space). Awesome. I want one.

Mark.S. said...


Bob Kuehne said...

this is a cool demo - i saw a very similar thing, very 'minority report'-y, at siggraph 2005, in emerging technologies. interestingly, it was done at microsoft research:

they showed a lot of similar apps, but best of all was the two-finger/touch scale/rotate/translate interface. that reminds me of a very cool 3d interface that i'd used years ago when i was doing vr hardware a lot, the 'pinch glove':

anyway, last ping, the 3d google earth thing is free, an application developed in conjunction with a friend of mine, at nasa ames:

all very nice stuff.

OMWO said...

Of course then went wild. They were thinking of the *real applications*:


Anonymous said...

This thing is going to take over our world!!! One day itll be as common as a lightbulb but I want one now!!!