We saw a few touch-tables at CES, and while the Surface remains the gold standard, not everyone loves the price, form factor, or size. There’s room for competition, and FlatFrog, based in Sweden, is hoping to break into the market with a new 32″ device.
When it comes to touch, there are a few different methods of detecting fingers and objects. Most common now is capacitive, which is on most smartphones. Then there’s resistive, which isn’t quite as responsive. Samsung created one for the new Surface that embeds tiny photosensors between image pixels. And FlatFrog uses yet another method.
It’s called Planar Scatter Detection, and it’s been used before, though not to my knowledge on such a large scale. It involves propagating light (infrared, I assume) through a thin layer above the imaging surface. When an object touches this surface, the propagation of the light is interrupted, and the location of this interruption can be detected. I know Microsoft used a version of this in one of the multi-touch mice I saw in their labs a couple years back; they called it by its proper name, frustrated total internal reflection, but FlatFrog has patented their version and renamed it.
The result is that you have the responsiveness and relative simplicity of capacitive with the broader detection capabilities of something like the Surface. You can use brushes, styli, or gloved hands to operate this thing. Here’s their little reel:
The fact that it’s essentially a multi-touch kit and not an integrated solution means that they can use a nice, thin normal 1080p display from an OEM, which also helps keep prices down. We saw IR fixtures for existing TVs at CES years ago, so the concept isn’t new, but their Planar Scatter Detection tech might just be a bit more practical than the rather hack-ish solutions we’ve seen before.
The display itself is a 1080p 32″ one, and it’s just 55mm thick, good for embedding. It’ll handle dozens of touches at once with just an 8ms latency, something cheaper capacitive displays certainly can’t do. We saw a couple of those cheap ones in Vegas showing off menus and such that were just awful. FlatFrog’s solution certainly looks a lot better.
It’s just a touch-table, though, not a whole platform like the Surface, so you’ll have to hook it up to a Windows 7 machine to give it signal and input.