I’m touched by Touchwall


At the Microsoft CEO Summit, Ian Sands and Chris Pratley (of OneNote fame) are showing off something called the TouchWall. It uses three lasers to detect and track finger positions that break the plane of the surface. A rear-projector projects the image onto the back of the wall.

This is a research project where they are experimenting with various models for displaying and manipulating content. In the demo video shown below they are showing an infinite canvas with multi-touch merged together.

Here’s a link to a video where Bill Gates is demoing TouchWall (26.4MB) himself at the CEO Summit.

All of this looks fantastic.

Here’s the thing though: Microsoft needs to start realizing that all these multi-touch approaches are not magical and that there’s a common set of functionality going on here. As you know I’m going ahead with building a multi-touch surface because I’m not going to wait any longer to experiment with this technology. Again, it’s not rocket science. Now to build a product, I 100% agree that there are tons of issues that would need to be worked out. But in terms of facilitating Windows developers to keep pushing the envelope, I’d like to see Microsoft make an effort to get some of this stuff out in the ecosystem. Maybe the Microsoft Research team can do this. I’d love to see it.

Anyway, here’s the big news along these lines: “TouchWall…is built on a standard version of Vista.” Yep, multi-touch is not rocket science. It’s incremental. Google is demonstrating this with TouchLib. And Microsoft is demonstrating this with TouchWall. And from what I can gather–though I’m not positive–Microsoft Surface shows us too. There’s no magic here.

Let’s get the ball rolling.

In his speech today, I think Bill Gates has the right idea about touch and surfaces: “We’re saying it will be absolutely pervasive. When I say everywhere, I mean the individual’s office, the home, the living room.”

I’d add your notebook, phone and more to his list too. It’s not just about location. It’s about natural and efficient experiences.