Schematic and Public Multitouch Social Interaction

Touchwall Demo from Joel on Vimeo.

Joel Johnson’s exclusive (on Vimeo?) video and interview with the folks at Schematic about their new touchwall shows them dealing with some interesting public multitouch issues. I hate the marketing crap that goes with it and the inevitable Minority Report reference (please, stop making that reference multitouch people), but the idea that what they’re really interested in is “the social interaction in front of the screen” is spot on.

Apart from the fun of playing with what looks like a giant iPhone screen, the key thing about large multitouch screens is that more than one person can use it at once. If it just replicates a bank of individual screens it’s missing the point of having one big one. Connecting people together in social play and interaction can be really engaging and it will be interesting to see what developers and designers explore in this area.

The other issue that they talk about in the video is how to solve the identity problem on such a device so that you don’t have to walk up to it (or “into it” as one of the interviewees says) and type in a log-in. RFID tags come to the rescue, which means the wall knows who you are as soon as you’re close enough to use it.

If we’re going to make comparisons to Minority Report, that screen was an individual experience operated alone by Cruise’s character. By contrast a multi-user multitouch screen feels to me to be much more Star Trek or James Bond to me and about using collaborative workspaces with the added layer of data feeds.

Exploring Near Field Communication with Touch

rfid_tags.jpg

A selection of RFID tags from Timo’s Flickr set.

Touch is a research project examining Near Field Communication that enables connections between mobile phones and physical things.

You will have probably used some of them already in your daily life – Oyster cards, swipe cards, etc. (see above image). It’s an interesting cross-over of cultural and social practices and interaction, product and service design with a whole bowl of technology mixed in.

The interdisciplinary team led by Timo Arnell have been teaching at The Oslo School of Architecture and Design.

For anyone learning about or teaching interaction design and related disciplines, it’s a great resource and they have also put all their design briefs online.