This story is from the category Display Technology
Date posted: 01/05/2008
Engineers at Eyebeam, an engineering and design firm based in New York, have created a scaled-down open-source version of Microsoft Surface, called Cubit.
By sharing the Cubit's hardware schematics and software source code, the engineers are significantly reducing the cost of owning a multitouch table, not to mention allowing independent developers an open platform on which to develop novel multitouch applications - something no other surface display currently allows.
Addie Wagenknecht, a fellow at Eyebeam, designed Cubit in an attempt to "demystify multitouch." She and her collaborator Stefan Hechenberger "wanted to prove that anyone could build [a multitouch table] if they had a few simple things," she says.
In addition to making Cubit software available online, Wagenknecht is selling various do-it-yourself kits that include parts and instructions, aimed at people with a range of engineering skills. Putting together a personal multitouch table could cost anywhere from $500 to $1,000, depending on the type of hardware used, Wagenknecht says.
Cubit has a single camera inside the table that can be a simple webcam with an added infrared filter, and a small image projector can be purchased for about $300.
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.
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