Since Saturday I've been at the SIGGRAPH conference in Boston, where so much is happening there's barely enough time to crack open a laptop and blog. I've finally caught my breath, so here we go.
Yesterday on the exhibition floor, just a bit removed from the massive booths from companies like Pixar and Lucasfilm, MERL (Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories) was demoing their DiamondTouch Table -- a 42'' LCD touch screen (there's also a 32'' version) designed to be used like a tabletop. What makes the DiamondTouch special is that it doesn't use a pressure sensor; there are thousands of antennas inside, each transmitting a different signal. You sit on a chair that's wired to a receiver, and when you touch the screen the antennas' signals are transmitted through your body to the receiver.
The upshot: the screen can detect more than just one small point of contact, and if people have different chairs, the screen can distinguish different users. In the picture below, MERL veep of Marketing and Business Development Adam Bogue is navigating Google Maps with his hands, occasionally spinning the planet like a DJ; after a few seconds of instruction, I was tracing the route from Boston to Montreal and zooming in and out with ease. The DiamondTouch includes annotation capabilities, and a cool method of text entry -- just open the standard Windows onscreen keyboard and start typing. (Just be careful with your elbows or you'll find yourself changing settings in the system tray.) There are other features planned for the DiamondTouch in the future, and a developer's kit is now available; but based on my experiments, it's pretty good for a first release.