About the Playsurface

Goal - Multi-touch displays are pretty awesome! Since we can’t afford most of the ones that are out there, we decided to build our own and share the hardware and software.  Playsurface.org is a community-oriented site that serves to support the development of easy-to-use, low-cost multi-touch displays and surfaces.

History - The Playsurface was incubated within a product development firm in Somerville Massachusetts.  The impetus for developing a touch display came out of internal development need.  We were developing software to manipulate digital representations of physical assets in a given space (think moving furniture around a room or moving airplanes across a flight deck on a computer screen) and it quickly dawned on us that a multi-touch interface would be much better than a mouse interface.  We investigated existing multi-touch displays and found them to be either feature-lacking or too expensive.  In searching, however, we did come across a vibrant community of hobbyists, hardware hackers and developers at the NUI group.  They showed us that it was possible to build your own touch tables and provided a wealth of knowledge, designs and software to get started.  From there we built a couple touch table prototypes to try out our in-house software, mostly as a design experiment to explore the space within the context of our software needs. Through experimentation we determined several techniques that work well and have come up with an efficient way to get a touch display up and running quickly.  We started Playsurface project to share our hardware and software with a larger community as well as provide a platform to enable development.

Open Source - This is an Open Source Hardware Project.  We will share the designs and fabrication techniques.

Design Philosophy - Product development by nature is constrained by the choices and goals one makes.  The Playsurface is no exception.  Playsurface v1 design goals are as follows: 1.  Easy Assembly - Unboxing to an assembled system in an an hour. 2.  Easy Fabrication - Most parts can be fabricated in a garage shop or dorm room. 3.  Easy Sourcing - Components and raw materials are available to individuals. 4.  Modular - Major components are bundled so they can move independently. 5.  Low Cost - We want widespread adoption of large format touch screens so it should be inexpensive. 6.  Effective - Its gotta work! 7.  Hackable - It has to be expandable and open. These goals can we weighted in different ways but we feel that v1 represents a great compromise between all these variables.

Why Not Just Support the NUI Group? Multitouch displays are just one aspect of what the NUI group does.  It stands for Natural User Interface so many interfaces fall under its domain.  The NUI group is a great place where people are exploring many interface designs.  We are interested in pursuing specifically one design and are interested in digging deeper into multi-touch displays.  In particular, we want to solidify hardware designs so that software and other innovation can happen on top of a stable platform.