Do it yourself: Researchers at Eyebeam, an engineering and design firm, sell kits that let people build their own multitouch tables. In this picture, the Cubit frame is completely disassembled. To make the display functional, users must add an inexpensive video camera and a projector, among other pieces of hardware.
Cubit will be on display in San Mateo, CA, this weekend at the Maker Faire, a showcase for do-it-yourself technology, arts, and crafts. Other open-source multitouch projects will also be represented. A team of independent engineers will demonstrate a multitouch table whose design is similar to that of Jeff Han’s displays. In this system, the infrared light that’s detected by the cameras is injected into the screen from the edges, bouncing inside the screen, trapped until an object touches the screen to scatter it. In addition, Johnny Lee, a graduate student from Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, is presenting another multitouch project in which he uses the infrared camera of a Wii controller to make an interactive whiteboard for less than $50.
Projects like these illustrate two important trends in technology, says Tim O’Reilly, founder of O’Reilly Media, the publishing company whose Make and Craft magazines put on the Maker Faire. First, the falling cost of hardware enables people to play with high technology without taking a large financial risk. Second, people are forming online communities, such as Instructables.com and wikiHow.com, to share their ideas, solve problems, and start collaborative projects.
Traditionally, O’Reilly says, the open-source community has focused on software, but in recent years, there’s been a push to share more information about hardware. “What we’re seeing is, hackers are engaging in the world of things in the way that they used to in the world of software,” he says. And the more people are able to contribute to building and improving technology, the more chance there is for innovation.
When designing an embedded system choosing which tools to use often comes down to building a custom solution or buying off-the-shelf tools.