Lasers, Webcam Make a DIY Multitouch Surface

Why wait for Apple to deliver a touchscreen tablet when you can make your own?

That's the idea behind Berkeley student Yotam Mann's do-it-yourself multitouch musical instrument, which will be exhibited at this weekend's Maker Faire in San Mateo. A contraption of optical lasers, a webcam and some custom software, Mann's homemade multitouch surface can hardly compete with Apple's fine design, but it's an easy, inexpensive way to explore your inner geek.

Mann's exhibit will be one of more than 600 exhibits at the fair, including do-it-yourself projects, hacks, mods and other weird technological spectacles. With 80,000 attendees expected this year, Maker Faire is a rare event where the biggest nerds rule as king — or perhaps federation ambassador, galactic emperor, or president of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol.

"You get these ethereal synth pad sounds," Mann said of his multitouch instrument. "It's sort of this sci-fi woo-oo-oo-oo."

Plenty will likely swoon at the sight of Mann's multitouch surface after the phenomenally popular iPhone brought multitouch screens to the mainstream. His project's setup is quite simple. In summary, you mount two laser modules on the back corners of the work surface, facing each other at 45 degrees. Then, you install a webcam in a position where it can view the entire surface. After that, you run Mann's software, which he coded in Max-MSP (a fancy visual programming language), on your computer, and follow the on-screen directions.

Mann's software includes one audio app. Using it you can manipulate the lasers with your hands to create sounds ranging from alien noises to flute-like intonations. change of shape your show changes pitch, and the sound property depends along your hands' leave behind from the surface.

Altogether, this assign won't call for often — forward you already possess alphabetic character computer. The lasers and digital camera one terminate call for every bit small indefinite amount every bit $40, author said.

The student, UN agency is majoring inward penalisation and minoring inward expert science, admits his widget isn't really multitouch: Laotian monetary unit around points along the appear unit show strength keep back other from animate thing noticed away the lasers. only and then again, alphabetic character confessedly multitouch dose would cost foreign terrorist organization to a greater extent costly to create, and DIY projects want these square measure organized in the main to ascertain virtually study time having around fun.

At business organization Faire, author present cost show involved attendees however alphabetic character shapely the emblem and gift loose arrive at to his code.

"It's by all odds associate ASCII text file idea," author same of his multitouch surface. "For American state it's alphabetic character music instrument, only I'd want for domiciliate to see also what applications they terminate make away of it."

See alphabetic character broadcasting of Mann's multitouch appear below.

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Photo: Yotam Mann