Roll Your Own Multi-touch Display

Were you totally wowed by Microsoft’s Surface? Trying to figure out how to come up with $10K so you can have one for yourself? Save some cash and build your own instead! Technology Review has an article on Eyebeam engineers who created an open source version, and there’s a nice exploded-view image of it at Gizmodo. At a mere 500 bucks for parts and some hands-on building time, who wouldn’t put this multi-touch table on their wish list?

And just as a reminder: Microsoft didn’t invent this technology. Here’s a fantastic video of Jeff Han showing his multi-touch display for Perceptive Pixel, and another from Mitsubishi Electric Research Lab.

Cool stuff. : )

Virtual World Hits the Road

Is your first life getting in the way of your second life? Does your avatar get cranky if left unattended too long? Are real life meetings a bore compared to in-world events? Pop into Second Life whenever you want, using your mobile phone.

Vollee has just released a video demonstrating Second Life running on a mobile phone. The application is still in beta, but you can sign up at

The app is free, but you’ll need to know a) if your phone is compatible (check the website) and b) what your phone service charges for airtime. If I can get my phone to run the program, I’ll be reviewing the usability of the application in the very near future.


I recently went to a demo on self-checkout presented by Library Automation Technologies.

Here’s the particular machine I saw last week:

It looks like it will be very simple for patrons to use and easy to maintain.

Lots of nice features: handicap accessible, multi-language availability, works as both barcode and rfid reader (also will scan barcode and write rfid tags for the item associated with that particular barcode), customizable screens that can be changed from any networked pc you give permissions to. Cost is about $12K, which is roughly half the price of a similar 3M model. It uses thermal paper – I don’t know how that compares to cheap paper plus ink, cost-wise, but there is no ink ribbon to deal with. One less thing to maintain.

The salesman (Steve) also talked about an IMM machine, which is also on their website. It’s a repository for CDs or DVDs that works kind of like a jukebox. Staff checks in the item, puts the item into the IMM and puts the empty case on the shelf. Patron picks up empty case from shelf, takes it to IMM, scans library card and scans case, and the item comes out of the IMM for patron to put into case and take home. This removes the need for traps and also helps reduce repetitive stress injury for staff. Also, the item cannot be retrieved without a library card, so theft of these items is virtually eliminated. These are a lot pricier than self-checkout: I think he said they start at $37,500 and hold 500 DVDs.

Others who attended the demo said they could see no difference between the LAT model and the 3M model, other than the price, and that they were inclined to go with LAT. They also mentioned they’ll be switching over to rfid in the near future, thus taking advantage of the seamless transition offered through LAT.

In my opinion, it couldn’t be any easier to operate, from a patron’s perspective. And the low maintenance and cost is very appealing, from my end.