Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Reactable: Multi-touch Tabletop Synthesizer Now Available

Oooh boy, me want!

This is the final product version of the Reactable, previously a thesis project by grad students at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain.

What is it? It's a tangible multi-touch projection surface hooked up to an interactive modular synthesizer. In other words, take the Evil Supreme Being's water surveillance screen from Time Bandits:

and combine it with a virtual version of Robert Moog's modular synthesizers:

What I like about this multi-touch screen is that it can "see" special barcode-like glyph patterns on the sides of objects. These glyphs can generate specific controls on the screen, or represent modes (like say "octave" or "turn on delay"). The screen detects their position and rotation. In contrast, something like the iPhone tracks fingers, but once you remove the finger, the tracking and control (as well as the visual representation of the control) are gone unless something tells the software to make that control "stick". This is not as intuitive as a tangible control. (After all, we know what to do with blocks as soon as we're old enough to grasp things.) The blocks on this surface are the signal to the screen to make a control. Removing them makes the control disappear. No extra interface to learn. It's also a nice way to partition the work of many users. Each player can control something (or many things) with his/her own block and participate with the overall result of everyone else's control blocks.

Looks like this incarnation of the Reactable is meant for museum and art installations, rather than personal use. And of course, it's running a specific application, namely a synthesizer. Wonder how much it costs!

As mentioned before on this blog, the last couple of years have been great for multi-touch interfaces. Jeff Hahn's interface, Jonny Lee's Nintendo Wiimote hack for a multi-touch whiteboard, the Reactable, Microsoft's Surface and the iPhone. Keep 'em coming!

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posted by Brian at 10:50 AM


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