Aug 2017
by Andreas Köster

Multitouch object recognition optical – advantages and disadvantages

Multitouch scanner table optically detects objects

Object recognition through multi-touch tables enables a variety of intuitive interactions between user and device. Different technologies exist for object recognition, each with its own strengths and weaknesses, depending on the use case.

Object recognition through multitouch tables enables a variety of intuitive interactions between user and device. Different technologies exist for object recognition with each technology having its particular strengths and weaknesses depending on the use case.

On the one hand, there are systems that can recognize and localize objects on the touchscreen surface. This is often referred to as “tangible interfaces”. The recognition here is usually capacitive. That is, analogous to finger touches, these objects trigger multiple touches simultaneously, which are then uniquely identified in their special form.

Optical object recognition on multitouch tables

There are also systems that enable object recognition on the touchscreen surface using cameras integrated into the screen. These detect special optical markers which are located on the table surface. Due to the integrated camera technology, these devices are usually significantly larger in height.
This article will focus on optical object recognition using additionally attached cameras. This can enhance touchscreen applications with new input or interaction possibilities.

Object recognition via camera

Optical object recognition is based on a high-resolution and particularly fast camera. This is located above, below or next to the touchscreen, for example. It therefore detects objects next to the touchscreen and not necessarily on the touchscreen surface itself.
The camera can, for example, be installed in a niche or shelf of a multi-touch table and recognize everything that is briefly held or placed there. Here is an example.

Eine Postkarte wird in die Scanner-Nische des Multitouch-Tisches gehalten

What objects does the multitouch table recognize?

A major advantage of optical object recognition is that, with the right software, all previously learned objects can be recognized and trigger configured actions. For example, flyers, brochures and postcards can be stored in any quantity as an image file in the software. The camera then recognizes these and displays the appropriate digital content on the table.

The camera even recognizes products and other objects based on their packaging, color and shape. Due to the high flexibility of the camera used, unsightly barcodes or QR codes are only necessary in exceptional cases, which only the camera has to help with.

There are also numerous possible applications for previously unknown objects. At trade shows, for example, business cards or badges can be captured and immediately used digitally on the touchscreen. (Anyone hoping for a fully automatic transfer of the data into a CRM system will unfortunately be disappointed. Contents and designations on business cards are too different for fully automatic data storage, so some manual control remains necessary).

Advantages of optical object recognition

Generally speaking, optical object recognition is best suited for prints that are displayed near the touch screen (e.g. flyers, brochures) or that the user carries with him anyway (e.g. business card, admission ticket). Without additional costs for markers, any number of objects can be quickly and easily stored in the software and actions can be linked to them. This technology is therefore predestined for trade fairs and events. Visitors are also often positively surprised at how fast the technology is and that it recognizes a wide variety of things from all sides without any markers.

All these advantages taken together, a multitouch table with optical object recognition is particularly suitable as an autonomous, interactive information counter as well as a “digital concierge” in companies.

Disadvantages of optical object recognition

Optical recognition reaches its limits for larger or complex objects. In addition, from the intuitive user experience, it sometimes makes more sense for objects to be recognized directly on the table surface.
Due to the fact that optical recognition is still little known, one must expect an increased need for explanation on the multitouch table. After all, the user must understand at which point exactly he can “show something” to the table.

Infographic: Advantages and disadvantages of optical object recognitionTable advantages and disadvantages of optical object recognition

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