New System Turns Any Surface into a Low-Cost Multitouch Screen

Microsoft's LaserTouch prototype can inexpensively retrofit any display into a touch screen, giving researchers a platform to experiment with different form factors and develop interesting software. The system has been shown at recent conferences.

LaserTouch is a system built from inexpensive hardware. Hardware costs a couple hundred dollars, excluding the display--which can be a plasma television or overhead projector.

The system is similar to Microsoft's Surface, but instead of the camera on the inside the table, two infrared lasers are put in the corners of the screen. When your finger breaks the plane of light, it's detected by the camera above.

Microsoft Research has showed a chess game that can be played with a virtual partner and an application that lets you virtually pick up objects on the screen. Users would be able to flick through slides, resize objects, navigate through parts of the presentation.

Although there aren't any plans for commercialization of LaserTouch, the approach can help spread development of multitouch applications within the research community.

Also shown was a virtual world XBox 360 visual game programming language aimed at children to program. Boku is a cute cartoon robot head with big eyes who hovers over a cartoon grassy field. Kids program using a graphical language to move around an island, play games, and eat brightly colored fruit.

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