DiamondTouch is the first and only multi-user touch technology, and it works differently than other touch technologies. Traditional touch technologies are based on pressure, but these only allow a single point of touch. Other touch technologies are optical, using cameras or infrared detectors. Some of these allow multiple points of touch, but they are not multi-user – they do not know who is who.

DiamondTouch is a capacitive touch technology, like the touchpad on most laptop computers and many smartphones. The touch surface has an array of antennas that transmit very small signals. When touching the display, the user capacitively couples the signal from a number of the antennas to a receiver that is typically connected to the user’s chair. Because each user has a unique receiver, DiamondTouch knows who is touching where, making it multi-user touch. More background on the principle of operation can be found in the original technical paper describing DiamondTouch here: Technical Paper

Some of the benefits of this method include…

Multi-touch input. A single finger tip couples the user to about six different antennas. Multiple fingers couples to more antennas. DiamondTouch can recognize many different hand postures and one or two-hand touch gestures. The DiamondTouch SDK, included with all DiamondTouch products, allows software developers to define their own gesture interfaces in their applications. The DiamondTouch mouse emulator and application plug-ins use some pre-defined multi-touch gestures, so you do not need to be a software programmer to benefit from the multi-touch capabilities of DiamondTouch.

Precision touch. The touch resolution of DiamondTouch is extremely good – possibly better that any other direct touch technology. Even though a typical fingertip is a centimeter or more in diameter, the touch resolution of DiamondTouch is 0.3mm – smaller that a pixel in most cases. How do we do this? The spacing of the antennas is 5mm. A typical fingertip touch puts the user in contact with several antennas at once. Interpolating the location of the peak signal, DiamondTouch resolves 16 points between each antenna. The result is that, by rocking the fingertip, users can actually target individual pixels on a high resolution display.

Good “feel”. Some touch technologies require the user to press hard. Others are confused by hovering and result in false touches, reacting when the user did not actually touch the screen. DiamondTouch is capacitive, and the feel is just what you would want. A touch is recognized only at the moment when the user feels skin contact.

Debris tolerance. Drop your phone, your car keys, papers, coffee cup on the table – even spills are no problem. There is no glass to break and the surface is quite durable. Also, the presence of these objects does not disturb the touch sensitive surface – it reacts only to touch. This was one of the design goals of DiamondTouch. To support Tabletop Computing, users should be allowed to treat the table like a real table.

Multi-user touch. Because DiamondTouch knows who is who, users can work together – no need to take turns. The simple example of a painting program illustrates the importance of multi-user touch. One user touches blue on the pallet while another touches yellow, and they can simultaneously paint with their color of choice. Only DiamondTouch can do this. DiamondTouch enables multi-user software with userbased preferences where, for example, certain buttons may be enabled for the teacher and disabled the students. And DiamondTouch enables applications to maintain an audit trail as to who did what.

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