The Latest in Wonka Vision: A Flexible Multitouch Surface

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Microsoft Surface is so 2008. That is what we are led to believe reading about the latest product from Future Labs, a interactive technology company that has developed Displax, a flexible and portable multitouch surface that can be integrated with any existing surface or screen.

Remember Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, 1971, and the Fruit Flavored Wallpaper?

Willy Wonka, 1971

Displax is the music makers and helps the dreamers of dreams, to quote from the film. With Displax, it is possible to make virtually any surface interactive to touch. Measuring only 100 microns thin an active area could be as small as 13 inches (35cm) and as large as 118”(3m). The technology currently can track up to 16 unique touchpoints when scaled to 50” and is not hindered by lighting or environmental conditions. Adhering the material to any existing monitor or projector turns the surface into an interactive touch screen.

Displax

So where can Wonka’s glass elevator take us? The possibilities are endless. The 11 killer apps for Microsoft Surface could certainly apply to this technology. The fact that this system is mobile opens a new set of opportunities. As an interactions designer, I could easily see myself setting up a mobile synthesis workspace at a client’s office to engage them in interactive digital whiteboarding and workflow analysis. Rather than resort to post-its and sharpies, which I love, the entire team can engage with a digital whiteboard. At the end of the session, files can be shared and the entire system can be transported back to the office. Alternately, this could be used as a touch surface alone. Just as Microsoft Surface allows the ‘sending’ of files by swiping them across the table, what if my desk at work was touch sensitive and I could send my co-workers files without email? Office spaces and designers are far from the place benefits from this technology will take place. Assuming a relatively low entry cost, stores and marketing firms could use the technology to make interactive bus shelters, store displays and window kiosks. Where previously these experiences required multiple cameras and rear projected displays, the entire system is now self contained and modular.

This is a mobile technology, but on a significantly larger scale than the iPad or latest Android device. As cost for the technology drops, the biggest hurdle will be engaging the general public with systems and displays that were once a passive read only of information. Technology is half the battle and addressing how to reframe experiences in the mundane (walking to work, bus shelters, security lines at the airport) to make them more engaging and rewarding is the true challenge interactions designers, developers, and the like have laid out in front of them.

Main Image From Displax.com

Displax Image From Fast Company

David Farkas

David is an interaction(s) designer working in the online and mobile realm. He focuses on the relation between the digital and the physical. Usability, goal oriented design, and consistency are key.

One comment on this article

  1. David on

    Hi! thanks for the article, quite an interesting read.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but from what I understood, the system is not entirely self contained as this technology only allows the surface to become multi-touch responsive, but you still need a projector/monitor or some other sort of output device to go along with it, right?

    Still, pretty cool that you can turn any surface (specially BIG ones) into instant multi-touch with this much ease.