DIY Multi-Touch All The Surfaces

Ever wanted to build a touch table or other touch-input project, but got stuck figuring out the ‘touch’ part? [Jean Perardel] has your back with his multi-touch frame over on IO that makes any surface touch-reactive. In [Jean]’s case, that surface is ultimately a TV inside of a table.

Of course, it’s a bit of a misnomer to say the surface itself becomes touch-reactive. What’s really happening here is that [Jean] is using light triangulation to detect shadows and determine the coordinates of the shadow-casting object. Many barcode scanners and consumer-level document scanners use a contact image sensor (CIS) to detect objects in the path of IR LEDs. These are a low-power, lower-resolution alternative to the CCDs found in high-grade scanners.

As [Jean] explains in the video below, an object placed in the path of a single IR LED facing a sensor array of either type will block the light from reaching the sensors. Keep adding LEDs and their emission angles will begin to overlap, increasing the detection precision. [Jean] reverse engineered a couple of different types of scanners until he found a suitable one. He ended up with CIS that has 2700 light sensors lined up in the space of 20cm (7.87″).

[Jean] designed a 3D-printable frame to hold 96 IR LEDs in stacks of three. A Teensy turns on the LEDs, detects the touch event, calculates the position, and sends those coordinates to a Pi to be displayed on the screen. He eventually went wireless and then built a nice looking touch table to house a 32″ TV.

This is not the only way to build a multi-touch table, nor is it the simplest. Here’s one that uses finger presses to scatter light and an industrial strength projection-based table that was open-sourced a few years ago.

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Continuous Ink Project


This ancient by internet standards, circa 2002, but its a great read.  [Eddie], frustrated by the high cost of ink cartridges set out to build a continuous inking system. This would mean that the cartridges would be filled from larger, cheaper reservoirs of ink continually. Along the way he transitioned from simple tubes with some putty to more complicated systems. Eventually he had to hack the chips that told the printers the cartridge was in need of replacement.  While the systems he’s using may be difficult to find now, the execution should work on other models. Completely unrelated to the project itself, is that [Billy Mays] as the site favicon? We suspect it is [Eddie] himself.

[via hacknmod]