This page is an archival of the research done between 1999 - 2007 at MERL (Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs, 201 Broadway, Cambridge MA 02139 USA). Those eight years saw many creative minds giving wings to the field of what we know today as the "tabletop computing" or "surface computing".
Frederic Vernier developed the first Java open source tabletop tool kit "DiamondSpin" which was an outgrowth of PDH (Personal Digital Historian) , a tabletop story-sharing and photo browsing system. PDH and DiamondSpin were originally developed using a Mimio ultrasound sensor bar and stylus as there was not any multi-touch tabletop available for use yet. He has gone on to lecture at the University of Paris-Sud 11.
Paul Dietz and Darren Leigh developed the initial DiamondTouch multi-touch multi-user tabletop which was first published in 2001 in ACM UIST (paper). He is now a Senior Researcher at Microsoft.
Joe Marks was the Director of MERL's research lab. His open management and emphasis on far-reaching HCI and graphics research in combining software technology with hardware innovation were the key in the productivity and success of these great fun years of research at MERL. Joe has since become the VP for R&D at Walt Disney Animation Studios and is creating many lab-lets around the world to continue encouraging creative minds to do great things.
Cliff Forlines was the major force in the creation of many of the tabletop interface and interaction techniques, as well as other off-the-desktop computing ideas. He studied fundamental advantages of tables over other devices, compared touch vs. mouse performance, and examined the effects of display configuration and user group size on visual search tasks. He was a master in bringing the users to the front of our research prototypes. He is now a Senior Human-System Collaboration Software Engineer at Draper Laboratory.
Kathy Ryall worked extensively to spread the DiamondTouch prototype tabletop to universities, creating a wave of research projects on tabletop computing around the globe. She headed many of the efforts in the development of research concepts and prototypes on DiamondTouch, including Identity-Differentiating Widgets Identity-Differentiating Widgets, DiamondTouch SDK, and DTMouse.
Daniel Wigdor spent three years at MERL during his Ph.D. thesis, brought our tabletop computing into the realm of "Under the Table", touch behind "Lucid touch", and examined the elementary graphics perceptual performances in tabletop and multi-display environments. His Ph.D. thesis examined multi-surface interactions. He has gone on to develop some of the most impactful tabletop computing interactive techniques such as Ripples.
Merrie Ringel Morris, Edward Tse, Kate Everitt, Mark Hancock, Mike Wu, Hao Jiang, and Peter Brandl were part of our graduate student intern talent pool. They pushed the boundaries of our imagination during those forming years of this field and reflected their ingenuity in the completion of their respective Ph.D. theses.
Tabletops within Collaborative Environments
Fluid interaction and meaningful visualizations are the key to multi-user, multi-surface, multi-device, interactive spaces. Such interactive environments are suitable for a variety of application domains, including collaborative business and work spaces, emergency response and mission control centers, urban planning rooms, as well as geospatial visualization and analysis.
The DiamondSpace project addresses the research challenges involved in the use of new interactive display surfaces, including multi-touch multi-user tabletops, electronic walls, and laptop/desktop displays. Additionally, we are investigating how these devices can be used in concert to create flexible visualization and workspaces in which people can explore, understand, utilize and manipulate heterogeneous information from many sources.
Read our open letter to OS developers to get an overview of some OS-level issues effecting the design of tabletop applications.