Project: Multi-touch / Single Display Groupware

Worth: 20%


You have been hired to create an educational prototype of a multi-touch system that allows 2 to 4 students to interact over a single display. You can choose your target student audience, but they must be chosen from the Grade 3 to Grade 8 range. Based on your design, the company that hired will red light or green light the idea. If green-lighted, it will continue on to development. The constraints are:

  • Purpose:
    • it must support an educational multi-user simultaneous activity over a single display
  • Technical:
    • it must fit display resolutions. smallest: 1024 x 768; largest: 1280 x 1024).
    • it should recognize at least two touches (i.e., two mice) but can have additional touches
    • it must support how at least two students work together simultaneously
    • (optional) a student can use more than one mouse, if desired (i.e., bi-manual input).
    • because a multi-touch table will not be available, you will be using a multi-touch emulator that lets you recognize multiple mice.
    • For the purposes of this exercise, you can use mouse IDs to differentiate between users.

You have complete freedom of your design, as long as you can show that the application is educationally useful for its intended audience, and that its design is impressive.


Your exercise will be based delivery of sketches, your design creativity, your implementation, documentation and packaging, and your portfolio summaries. Great successes or failures in one of these criteria can affect your total grade significantly. Note that a successful implementation is required: if you cannot demonstrate your system, you will automatically receive a zero.

Deliverables are similar to assignment 1

  1. A variety of sketches displaying idea variety, choices, and idea evolution
  2. A demonstration of an implemented version of your system. Sophistication and aesthetics matter. I will especially be looking for sophisticated multi-user aspects of your system.
  3. Portfolio #1: A live web site that contains a visual description of your system. It must include separate source and separate executables (packaged as zip files). These executables must run on systems that have the table emulators installed, e.g., the lab computers (test it!).
  4. Portfolio #2: A video (with voice over) that illustrates your system. The video must be available as a download, as well as playable from your web site entry. Production quality and aesthetics matter.
  5. Paper portfolio. No paper portfolio will be required for this assignment.


  1. Table emulator software will be made available to you, as well as tutorial examples
  2. An extra USB mouse will be given to each person. Other mice may be offered on an as needed basis(but these are in limited supply).

Suggested process

  • Think about how students work together in parallel in the real world around a table, a wall, paper, and so on. Then consider how that process can be supported by technology, and create a novel application that encapsulates that process
  • Analyze a single-user learning activity and ask how its idea could be extended to support multiple students working in parallel; then create a multi-touch activity that reflects that activity
  • You are probably familiar with multi-user games. One option is to create a cooperative - rather than competitive - game, where people work together to acheive a goal rather than compete with one another.


  • In your sketchbook, jot down words describing real world or computer-based activites that you and others would or could use and share while interacting together. For example:
    • real world: a piece of string, a rubber band, paper, jigsaw puzzle pieces
    • computer world: buttons, list boxes, sliders, rectangle drawing tool, palettes...
  • For each of these words, visualize in your head what would happen as multiple people use it. If it is a computer object, think beyond its existing constraints. For example:
    • rubber band - people can grab it at different points, rotate it, stretch it. A third person pulling on it would then bend it
    • slider - perhaps the slider remembers each person's value. This could be done by having multiple thumbs, one per person, that stays in the last set position. Thumbs could be identified by name or color, and activated as a particular person moves over the slider.

Your assignment:

  • Now do the same for educational activities. Keep the activity simple, which will let you concentrate on the multi-user aspect of it. Real life examples will naturally be collaborative. Computer examples will tend to be one-person oriented.
  • Re-read your notes on single display groupware and/or visit the web sites above for ideas (don't forget Google!). You can borrow from existing tabletop SDG ideas/systems, but you should modify their designs (and cite the original).
  • Share ideas and borrow implementation techniques with class mates. Your ideas can complement and build upon those of others.
  • As before, remember the design funnel! develop several ideas, and make choices. Elaborate multiple designs as needed. Explore details of your design before coding.

Readings / sites of interest

Web sites that may provide inspirations for your project