multi-touch and gesture interactions for a tiled display

The Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL) at the University of Illinois at Chicago has been awarded a major grant by the National Science Foundation to build their OmegaTable. This is a next generation version of their LambdaTable, which itself was an impressive 24 million pixel tiled display consisting of six LCD screens in a 2x3 configuration. The user interacted with the tabletop LambdaTable via mouses and pucks that are motion-tracked by cameras situated above the table. In the following movie, you can see how multiple users can navigate through a Earth surface data set using the hand-held controllers on the table surface.

The LambdaTable's not exactly the same as the multi-touch surfaces that have exploded onto the scene in the last couple years, but it seems that the OmniTable will follow in that direction. It's supposed to be:

a modular multi-sensory touch tabletop for interactive 2D and 3D visual data exploration.

This powerful virtual-reality device will enable scientific communities to view, share and interact with large-scale 2D and 3D data at the same time, and will enable computer scientists to study the integration of multi-sensory touch and gestural interaction techniques for seamlessly manipulating both 2D and 3D data.

So this sounds like a LambdaTable with added multi-touch interaction. I'm not certain how exactly they are proposing that it would be done with a wall of LCDs, although other groups have come up with different solutions to similar problems. Mitsubishi Electric Research Lab's DiamondTouch has embedded antennas in the touch surface which connects with receivers in each user's chair via a capacitance loop. This allows the table to record two-handed touch interactions as well as multiple users interacting at once.

The "gestural interaction" is also interesting, since it implies some sort of real-time hand and/or object tracking. This is work that's being done by many, many groups around the world. Here's one example: a movie showing real-time tracking of hand gestures from Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute. The Swiss CVLAB has been working on face and object tracking for augmented reality applications; see some nifty examples here, here and here.

Scientific American also published last month an article reviewing how various technologies work, including Jeff Han's Perceptive Pixel interface, Microsoft's Surface, and MERL's DiamondTouch

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