Touch screen demo

We went to Fort Collins to see the Mesa Mundi multitouch system today. (See original post)

The IR sensor was mounted to a 46″ Sony (A Google TV). It is a very thin system, at most 1/2″ thick, and could detect more than 20 fingers at once. They were using it to run the D20pro role playing system (which was pretty cool). That system was not really designed with a large touch screen in mind, and some of the buttons and menus were a bit small to hit accurately. The sensor also had a higher latency than we had hoped. If you moved your finger across the screen, the cursor stayed a few inches behind.

William’s GemHoarder software ran flawlessly on the screen. The screen was sending out TUIO events and the game connected and played just fine. See a video of GemHoarder here.

The demo was enough to convince us that the IR sensor system was the way to go and so we bought the TV that we are going to attach the screen to. The TV was recommended by the helpful owner of Mesa Mundi as being a perfect match for the 46″ screen. It is the Sony Bravia NX720:

There are several features that make it well suited for our setup.

  1. It is very thin which will make mounting it in a table easier and will leave plenty of leg room under the table.
  2. There is no bevel around the edge. We need the screen to be as close as possible to the IR overlay so that there is a minimum of distance between when a touch is detected by the IR sensor and when your finger touches the screen.
  3. The viewing angle is excellent, even from the top and bottom. The top/bottom viewing angle is bad on many monitors because you are rarely looking at a TV from significantly above or below it (as opposed to sitting off to the side). But we plan to have people sitting all around the table.
  4. It was on sale at Best Buy for the super bowl.

It may be the only one of its kind that was sold during that sale that wasn’t used to watch the super bowl.

Multitouch table options

A multitouch table is a computer with a large display that can detect multiple fingers and or objects that are touching the display. Each of these fingers/objects can be tracked by the computer and used to control the software. Think Minority Report.

Imagine being able to play board games without having to waste time setting up and putting away the game, without having to have a ‘banker’, without misinterpreted rules. Or imagine playing computer games where your team or opponents are sitting around the table with you. Currently, the price of these systems put them outside the mainstream, but as the technology improves, I think they will be adopted by more and more people.

William has been in the market for a multitouch table for a long time and has considered several options.

  1. Projector and web-cam with acrylic screen
  2. Microsoft Surface and Surface 2
  3. Multitouch monitor
  4. IR sensor

Each of the options above has some advantages and disadvantages:

The projector/web-cam approach is what he considered first because it allows a large screen while keeping the cost low(ish). The main concern with this option is that there would be a lot of trial and error involved in getting the projector and camera setup in a reliable manor.

The Microsoft surface is a nice, if expensive, system. The original surface was a $7000 30″ unit. It was a little small and the sides of the table came straight down making it inconvenient to sit around. Surface 2.0 just came out. It is $10000, has a 40″ screen and looks like a normal table. It also has a per-pixel camera system so that it can detect objects and read bar codes on the bottoms of objects set on the surface. Another disadvantage is that the computer is built into the surface which would make it difficult to upgrade.

Multitouch monitors are smaller than we are looking for in a gaming table. And the large ones are prohibitively expensive.

The IR sensor system is an overlay that you can place over the top of any monitor that detects objects that break the ring of IR lights. It is a cheaper solution. William recently found a company called Mesa Mundi which sells large multitouch IR sensors. It turns out that an early prototype of their system is being used for a D20 gaming session being held at Gryphon Games in Fort Collins this weekend.