Interactive tables or large displays are great for exploring and interacting with data, for example in urban observatories, public libraries, museums, or exhibitions. They turn working with maps, documents, visualizations, or other information into a fun and social experience. However, such interactive tables or large displays are also expensive ‐ much too expensive for schools, public libraries, community centres, hobbyists, or bottom up initiatives whose budgets are typically small.
We therefore asked ourselves how we could use the countless tablets and smart phones that are typically idling away in our pockets and bags to compose a low-cost but powerful multi-user and multi-device system from them. How can we enable users to temporarily share their personal devices for creating a joint cross-device system for a social and fun data exploration?
Our result is HuddleLamp, a desk lamp with an integrated low-cost depth camera (e.g. the Creative Senz3d by Intel). It enables users to compose interactive tables (or other multi-device user interfaces) from their tablets and smart phones just by putting them under this desk lamp.
This is a free and open source research project for tech-savvy designers and developers, not a commercial product for end users. Please have a look at our publication below – if it does not scare you, you will have great fun… :-)
Needless to say, that we are not liable for any damage or waste of time that our software or instructions cause you.
HuddleLamp uses our free and open source computer vision software to continuously track the presence and positions of devices on a table with sub-centimeter precision. At any time, users can add or remove devices and reconfigure them without the need of installing any apps or attaching markers. Additionally, the users’ hands are tracked to detect interactions above and between devices.
All this information is provided to our free and open source Web API that enables developers to write cross-device Web applications. These applications can use all this information to become "spatially-aware". This means that the applications can react to how the devices are arranged or moved in space. For example, physically moving a tablet on a desk can also pan and rotate the content of the screen, so that each device appears to be a kind of peephole through which users can view a spatially-situated virtual workspace. When putting multiple tablets or phones side-by-side, these peepholes turn into one huddle or federation of devices and users can interact with them as if they were just one large display.
Francesco de Gioia