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Group Touch

Discussions around a conference table can get clumsy if participants have trouble interacting collectively with electronically displayed information. A multi-user touch screen developed at Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories in Cambridge, MA, may be the solution. The centerpiece is a tabletop embedded with tiny transmitting antennas. Surrounding chairs are fitted with receivers, each of which is hooked up to a central computer. An overhead projector connected to the same computer displays information across the tabletop. When a participant touches a part of the display-say, to select a button-antennas at that location send a tiny electrical signal through the person’s body to his or her chair. The receiver in the chair relays the signal to the computer, triggering whatever action the participant intended. This way, the touch screen permits multiple simultaneous interactions, creating a communal electronic workspace. Mitsubishi engineer Paul Dietz expects a system on the market within two years.

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