Interview with the MultiTouch Guys – Team Sparsh

So does the new technology excite you ? Are you a DIY fan ?

I’m proud to bring in front of you the multi touch guy and my best friend Anirudh Sharma and his student group named Sparsh, He developed a passion for multi touch after using his iPhone and went on to Build a Multi Touch table and some cool apps for it. He is currently working on developing a multi touch extension for Google Sketchup as a part of Google Summer of Code program. Here is a short interview with him and team Sparsh

1. Can you explain our readers in detail, how your love affair with Multi Touch started?

I was more of computer security and algorithms guy until I happened to see the Multitouch Video by Jeff Hann. Thereafter flirting around with the iPhone! . I was introduced to Natural User Interfaces by my schoolmate Kshitij Gujral, a fashion photographer and gadget enthusiast. Luckily I found Google Summer of Code program going around on NUIGroup. This how the whole thing started 🙂 This next generation of technology is right around the corner, with the adoption of the iPhone being the first widespread use of a multitouch device.

2. How many people are involved in Sparsh?

We are a group of four HCI and Design passionate 20-year-olds. We don’t have much of a story as such. Sparsh started about half a year ago. We met at university and felt like contributing our perspective to the field. We never imagined going that far and we are thankful to all the people that have supported our project with their innovative ideas.Sparsh continued to grow , We started single from our college, thereafter friends from IIT Delhi joined and we’re now working on different aspects of hardware and software.

3. Were your friends interested in your idea initially? If no, how did you motivate your friends ?

Being overwhelmed after seeing the Jeff Hann’s Video, I began Googling the knowhow about making Multitouch hardware. Thereafter explaining the idea to Sudhanshu Gautam, who further introduced me to Rahul Motiyar, who were good with the electronics are architecurtal aspects of things.

4. How did you come up with the name Sparsh, what does it mean ??

Sparsh Logo
Sparsh Logo

We wanted to give our name to our thing. Mindstorming, we randomly struck the hindi word “Sparsh” . Its hindi for “Touch”.

 

5. You have a great logo, can you explain its meaning.

The logo was conceptualized and designed by Rahul Motiyar. Kudos to his designing skills 🙂

6. What are the main steps involved in the project?

The making of these two fundamentals lands in a box of multiple interests. There are two main interests: hardware and software. Beginners can make hardware using any of the techniques they feel that suits their needs. For software part we can rely upon the efficient Touchlib/TBeta from the NUIGroup.
Building up hardware part of Multitouch Surfaces isn’t a hard thing to do when we’ve communities like NUIGroup around; it just requires you to be patient. Collecting hardware, carpentering, soldering, and a little bit of DIY enthusiasm are all what is required.
– Planning the hardware- A lot of CAD design goes into this, its always a better tip to plan your design before you start fabricating the real table, Checkout Nolan’s CADs here. You might want to estimate the height, width, projection distance etc. by doing some CAD design and then optimizing the hardware. Google SketchUp is good modeling tool for beginners.
-Making the Screen- Several techniques like FTIR, LLP, and DI are used according to your budget and needs. See this NUIGroup forum link for details. We started off with FTIR.
“Infrared light is shined into the side of an acrylic panel (most often by shinning IR LEDs on the sides of the acrylic). The light is trapped inside the acrylic by internal reflection. When a finger touches the acrylic surface this light is “frustrated” causing the light to scatter downwards where it is picked up by an infrared camera.”

Scattered light being picked by infrared camera
Scattered light being picked by infrared camera
Multi Touch
Multi Touch

Every technique has its own advantages or disadvantages to begin with.

– Hacking up the camera- In our case we hacked a Microsoft LifeCam VX1000 we purchased off shelf for USD 30. After popping open the camera casing the IR Cutoff Filter has to be skinned out.
– Thereafter, the Wooden box has to be prepared according to the size of the screen. This requires some carpentering skills. We were not pro’s at carpentering but the motivation to make our first table taught it 🙂

7. Your projects seems to be requiring lot of tools and hardware, was your project funded?

Yeah, initially we pooled in our pocket money to start building the frame, after initial results , when the sweet neat blobs were visible , we went on to our Professor M.P. Poonia , who didnt mind signing cheques for us and funding the whole thing.

Making of Multi touch table
Making of Multi touch table
Making of Multi touch table
Making of Multi touch table

 

 

8. Did you try to Get some sponsors?

We did ! Initially after making the first prototype. We thought of approaching Sony and NViDia to sponsor us high-end screens and computer hardware.

9. Can we have a sneak peek into your lab ?

Work Space of Sparsh team

Workspace of sparsh team-2

vdsB

 

10. Were you having a guide or mentor to help you through the project?

Initially we received help from Divesh Jaiswal, who’s now working for Microsoft Research in Interaction Design. We’ve received help from Taha Bintahir, Peau Productions, Pymt Team, Laurence Muller, and whole of the NUIGroup community.

11. How was the support from your other friends and faculty from college?

Amazing! They were very supportive while letting us use the projector for long periods of time. A couple of friends also teamed up to give presentations. It was great to see local community gather up and friends looking forward to the whole new world of Open Source Multitouching

12. How long did it take you to get a working model?

It took us about 2 months to get our hold on the required hardware and about 20 days to finish fabrication. If you’re in Europe or the US, then fetching hardware isn’t a trouble.

13. Can you give us a brief time line overview of how the goal was accomplished?

We started off in the month of August, and didn’t mind the time spent while planning and finding the technique that would work best for us. June and July were spent while ordering and waiting for the Infrared LEDs, Silicone layers, and good quality plexiglass(acrylic). We also got a website domain booked to put forward our work. In the meantime Sachidanand Swami and Ashish Agarwal from IIT Delhi joined us.

Fabrication took us about 30 days, we were able to successfully implement a working multitouch system. Thereafter began the phase of exploring opportunities to build software applications based on Multitouch using AS3, C++ and Visual Programming. As an important aspect of these applications would justify the need of multitouch and highlight the improvements to the current UI’s.

14. You must have surely got some help online, can you share few links here?

A lot of research has already been done in this field and people all over the world are building such products. Particularly, the NUI(Natural User Interfaces) group (www.nuigroup.com) has been doing pioneering work in the same. If you need instant replies then #nuigroup on irc.freenode.net is the best place to hang around. Mibbit.com is a good webapp to connect to IRCs . Some of the NUIGroup users’ blog I refer Nolan, Seth Sandler, Taha Bintahir, Laurence Muller, PyMT

15. You participated in IIT Kanpur’s and BITS Pilani’s techfest and stood first, How was the experience ?

We competed against some of the best international projects from all over India and abroad. The credit goes to the whole Open Source community! The student crowd was enthusiastic to know and learn about the open-source Multitouch DIY 🙂 A couple of guys from Chennai, Jaipur and New Delhi have also begun building up their setups.

16. Tell us about your new project?

sdagf
There are two in the pipeline – An ergonomic Multitouch computer without keyboard/ mouse operation. A lot graphically rich software has to be coded for that.
We are also planning to gather funds and support to start making a Transparent Multitouch wall . We’ll require a special transparent projection surface for that. Which means it can be touched from both the sides.Something as shown in this Microsoft’s concept video.

17. Do you have any suggestion / advice to those who want to build their own multi touch surfaces ?

Sure ! If you’ve got 15 dollars and enthusiasm to begin! We recommend you make yourself a Multitouch Pad in like 15-20 mins J Yes ! Checkout MTMini. You’ll require a webcam, a wasted cardboard box, a glass sheet, and a little tape , that’s all 🙂AffD


If you liked the videos above and want to build a real Multitouch Table for yourself. Right said, Go ahead, We want you to do it and further spread the Open Source know-how. Start by planning – lots of it is required- Do the basic CAD Design- You might want your table to resemble the Microsoft Surface , or something innovate on your ownASCadv

18. Was balancing academics and your passion for multi touch a tough job? How did you manage it?

Yeah! For me it was. I had to miss a couple of my internals for the joy. But the risk was worth it 😛 The thought of the end product and future always kept us going

19. What do u do in your free time?

Read Blogs, Music, watch TED videos, photography, and adventure travel

20. What are your future plans?

Prime focus is to write new code that’d enable day to day tasks using Multitouch. I am currently working with Google Summer of Code 2009 to port Google SketchUp’s Modeling capabilities to Multitouch under mentorship of Pawel Solyga and Taha Bintahir. Side by side our team right now is researching into the hardware research (the optical setups like above are great, but have some limitations- a lot of future).

21. Do you use social media sites like orkut and face book?

yes we’ve a small Orkut community – Multitouch India .

Anirudh’s Facebook Profile

My Orkut Profile

22. Do you have anything to say to our readers?

We would like to encourage the readers, to join this new Human computer interaction revolution that just has just started. There are so numerous avenues to start applying this technology to, and we feel this is the right time to do it.
We would also like to use this chance for collaboration, who knows while discussing we might just pop up with a great idea. Re-mixing ideas is a fun process and the outcome tends to be worthwhile. So, don’t hesitate to get in touch us and share your ideas with us if you have any J
anirudhsharma.crypto-at-gmail.com
May the source be with you ! J

Thats the Sparsh team for you, hope you enjoyed reading the interview.

9 thoughts on “Interview with the MultiTouch Guys – Team Sparsh

  • December 22, 2009 at 7:47 pm
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    i want to do the job in sprash bpo

    Reply
  • September 23, 2009 at 5:08 pm
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    I really appriciate your multi-touch screen project. It mesmerized me . kudos to all team members

    Reply
  • August 17, 2009 at 6:53 pm
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    it really gr8 work guys……congrats team sparsh foe google code of summer….keep it goin..

    Reply
  • June 3, 2009 at 7:31 pm
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    it’s really great to know your openion kshitij. i liked it. i am sure, you will rock.

    Reply
  • June 3, 2009 at 5:27 am
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    Congratulation guys, for Google Summer of Code open source coding and

    I especially like seeing new app concepts that go beyond image zooming and smoke effects.

    I’d be delighted to see some video editing apps as well, perhaps after your GSoC.

    The DJ app is exactly what I think MT will bring in the future: a replacement for otherwise very expensive tools. Many of these tools can already be replaced by software, yet the feeling, the touch, the ease of use does not compare. DJ-ing with a mouse just doesn’t do it.

    Reply
  • June 2, 2009 at 8:56 am
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    Every one can make it …the main thing is a projector whose cost starts from RS.45,000.And some thing around RS.2000-5000 for frame.We all have computer and webcams !!!!!!

    I recomend seth sandlers blog.

    Reply
  • June 2, 2009 at 8:47 am
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    Congrats Team Sparsh!!!.Its the beginning of a touch revolution,I think you guys are first of its kind in India.We[Team MEX] were also doing the touch screen by integrating wiimote and FTIR technology the project is on the way.We are facing difficulty in building applications that works in multi touch environment and as you said the waiting for the hardware to arrive in the workshop is a real time waster.Thanks Sathish for the wonderful interview.

    -askoppal

    Reply
  • June 1, 2009 at 4:26 am
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    Thats cool of you guys creating a multi-touch platform. Its somewhat like creating a 3-Dimensional object in air. What you guys are creating is a start.. And I am sure you guys would evolve to make much better a technology. All the best.

    Reply

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