Microsoft has made tailoring your workspace using touchscreen devices easier with the release of hardware designs for linking multiple touchscreen devices. The release is open source.

Working in partnership with University College London, Microsoft Research has released a new modular system for creating tailored workspaces using multiple touchscreen devices including the Microsoft Surface Pro 2, Apple iPad Air tablets and iPhone 7.

Launched that the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Montreal, Canada in April, ‘SurfaceConstellations’ includes designs for 3D printed brackets for holding multiple different touchscreen devices information, as well as capacitive links for automatic recognition of connected devices. A web-based GUI tool can help users configure their set up, but for the most part, the software approach is being left to the individual needs of the user.

Potential Applications

Researchers showcased four different potential applications. For gamers, the team demonstrated a three tablet interface for a game of Scrabble between two players. For music buffs, the researchers set up a three tablet, multi-screen music editing suite. For traders, the demonstration suggested a wall of six tablets, and more running business analytics applications a three tablet set up linked to a smartphone.

The key to the system is capacitive links attached to brackets printed using 3D printing technology, which establish the connection between the devices. The system includes a second, conductive material in the bracket, which overlays a small section of the touchscreen and recognized as a unique touchpoint.

As well as using one the setups developed by the researchers, users can rearrange the various brackets to customize their own setups, or even create their own brackets using the MakerBot customizer and source files provided by the researchers on GitHub.

The researchers from Microsoft and University College London have published a research paper with full details of the system. According to the paper the platform “enables anyone with access to a 3D printer and multiples tablets/phones to design and construct one’s own multi-surface workspace.” The paper states that the increasing number of available touchscreen devices will lead more people to want to use their devices in concert and that SurfaceContellations is one way to help facilitate this interaction.


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