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Microsoft demos TouchWall

Microsoft demos TouchWall

Russ Burtner, Microsoft's User Experience Designer, checks the TouchWall for BSODs ahead of Bill's demo.

Bill Gates has spent some of his precious time at the Microsoft CEO Summit 2008 demonstrating a new multi-touch interface dubbed 'TouchWall'.

As reported by CNet yesterday, the TouchWall is a six by four feet research prototype similar to the Surface desktop-based multi-touch interface the company has already demonstrated.

Where it differs – aside from in orientation – is the price. According to a quote published by CrunchGear from Microsoft's Director of Envisioning Ian Sands the system will be able to turn “almost anything into a multi-touch interface” for “hundreds of dollars” - a far cry from Surface's $10,000 price tag.

The basic premise involves three lasers operating in the infra-red part of the spectrum and being monitored by an infra-red sensitive camera, with the image being provided by a bog-standard projector. In this way, it operates similarly to the open-source Cubit we reported on at the start of this month. Because the technology is so simple, there is no real limit to the size of the multi-touch interface – given a powerful enough projector and a big enough wall it would be possible to create a TouchWall you'd need a ladder to use.

Interestingly, despite the low cost of parts to develop the technology, Microsoft has no immediate plans to commercialise the system. Whether this is due to the company concentrating on the more technically impressive Surface – which offers identification and communication with Surface-enabled devices that are plonked down on the desktop – or just that it doesn't want to compete in a market where the barrier to entry is so low, I don't know.

If you want to see the tech in action, CrunchGear has a video along with some excellent pictures.

Tempted to play your favourite games with a wall-sized multi-touch interface, or is this technology unlikely to get much use outside of educational environments? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

7 Comments

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Cadillac Ferd 15th May 2008, 09:35 Quote
This reminds me of that infrared white board concept that one guy made using a wii-mote hacks. Why would MS spend time developing a system, then tout its affordability then have no plans to ever release it? I'm confused. Looks neat in any case.
DougEdey 15th May 2008, 10:10 Quote
Article link is missing from here btw.

I'd rather try surface then Touchwall, touchwall seems similar to an interactive whiteboard
freedom810 15th May 2008, 10:12 Quote
Ye, if i wanted one of those id just buy a interactive whiteboard.....
squeck 15th May 2008, 11:46 Quote
This looks almost identical to the multitouch screen which Jeff Han at NYU has pioneered and spun off into a company Perceptive Pixel. Personally I think the perceptive pixel screen looks a lot better. Theres a lot of similar stuff around at the mo and they are pretty easy to make - a simple one can be made with a sheet of acrylic, IR leds, a cheap webcam and a projector. The videos here and one of the final product here show a far more developed product than the microsoft one.
VictorianBloke 15th May 2008, 13:04 Quote
So technically I could have a 4 foot DS?
MrMonroe 15th May 2008, 16:17 Quote
I know how to commercialize these: (or the tabletop version for that matter)

Put it in the middle of a mall and load ten or so simple, 2-5 person multiplayer games on it. Have each game for each player cost $2 and last an average of five minutes. You'd have the thing paid off in weeks and then it would be pure profit minus the cost of the electricity for the rest of the lifespan of the machine.

Hell, I'd buy a tabletop edition for my living room for dinner parties if they made a dev kit so people could program for it.
Sebbo 15th May 2008, 16:26 Quote
application-wise, i see this better suited to planning and development than anything else. like others have said, its basically an electronic whiteboard thats also hooked up to windows, and i can easily imagine a small group of people gathered around, arranging things in MS Project or storylining or something similar (remember that Visual Studio commercial with paper plastering the walls of the office?)
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