The Dynamic Desktop: Experimental Tangible Interfaces for Capacitive Touch Tables

Image for the post: 'The Dynamic Desktop: Experimental Tangible Interfaces for Capacitive Touch Tables'

Ideum is working in new frontiers of technology to bring tangible object integration to projected capacitive touch environments.

Update: August 2016 – This experimental application been developed into a product. Visit the Tangible Engine website to learn more.

Projected Capacitive Touch (PCT or P-Cap) is the most popular type of touch technology around. It is the same touch technology found in iPad and iPhones and nearly every Android and Windows 8 phone and tablet to boot.  There are hundreds of millions of PCT screens out there.

When it comes to large scale touch screens (40″ or bigger), it has taken some time for PCT to take hold. The technology has had some issues in scaling up to larger screens. Because of this issue camera-based and optical systems have been around much longer and still dominate the market. (Although, PCT screens are starting to catch up.) Of course, these optical systems have issues of their own, light interference and calibration issues can be troubling and if they are camera-based touch tables or walls, “thin” means several inches thick at a minimum.

Projected capacitive touch doesn’t have any of the issues that optical touch systems have. It works in any lighting environment, calibration is a breeze (if needed at all), and “thin” means thin, just a couple of inches. However, vision-based systems and camera-based systems have always had the ability to recognize objects: fiducials or other tangibles. Over the years, a number of innovative applications using objects on touch tables have been explored.

PCT screens which are not vision-based, historically, haven’t had the ability to support tangibles, until now.  By using conductive materials such as, 3D printed conductive plastics, we have been able to create unique conductive patterns that our GestureWorks software can recognize on standard PCT screens.

It’s still experimental but check out this video and some photos showing how it works. The video shows the system working on a Platform 46 multitouch table with a Presenter 46 mounted on the wall. Both of these systems use 3M projected capacitive touch screens.


See all the Dynamic Desktop photos on Flickr

There’s still more work to do in improving the fidelity of the system, but as you can see from the video progress has been made. There are challenges still in 3D printing objects with the conductive materials. However, we’ve just added our third 3D printer, so we are actively working on the materials side of things too. We will post some more updates as we continue to improve the system.

Update: 7/5/2016 – Check our new Tangible Engine SDK. It allows developers to author object recognition aware applications on our 55″ and 65″ multitouch tables.

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