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Build Your Own Multitouch Surface Computer

It all started while we were researching an article on future user interfaces. Touch interfaces are hardly futuristic at this point, but multi-touch hardware like the Microsoft Surface or the iPhone is just starting to become a big deal, and we decided to see what big things are going on in that field. What we found that surprised us the most wasn’t anything about the future of multitouch; it was about something that people are doing right now .

There is, it turns out, a whole community of very smart folks out there on the internet perfecting the art of building DIY multi-touch surfaces. The process isn’t exactly simple, but the results we saw were stunning: multitouch surfaces with responsiveness rivaling Microsoft’s $12,000 offering, built in a garage on a shoestring budget. “Future UI article be damned,” we thought, “we’ve gotta build one of these for ourselves.”

And so we did. We documented the whole process, from start to finish, so that you can try building one of your own, if you’re so inspired. We’re not going to claim to have done everything perfectly the first time, so think of this article as more of a build log than a definitive how-to. Still, we’re very pleased with how the table turned out. We’re so pleased, in fact, that we put together a video (opens in new tab) showing the table in motion. Check it out, and read on to find out how we did it!

First, some acknowledgments are in order. Virtually all the techniques used to create this table were discovered at the Natural User Interface Group website, which serves as a sort of repository for information in the multitouch hobbyist community. If you find the technology shown in this article interesting, you owe it to yourself to check out their forums , where you can participate in the development of multi-touch hardware and software.

The Theory

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The Screen

The Acrylic

TAP plastics

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Smoothing the edges with 200 grit sandpaper

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Polishing to a sheen with a Dremel and buffer bit

Next Page: Soldering LEDs and spreading silicon