Nov 2020
by Andreas Will

Select Multi-touch Software: How to set the scene for user experience?

Select multitouch software

The multi-touch software – in other words, to what users see, touch, and experience on the “table-top”. After all, what good is the best and most innovative of interactive tables if in the end all it shows is the good old PowerPoint presentation or a selection of PDFs to click through. Exactly – that would be just like buying a gargantuan home entertainment system with bombastic Dolby surround sound and then use it for watching only silent films of the 1920s.

The table’s built-in PC usually works with a common Windows 10 OS. On this OS in turn runs the multi-touch software proper. Basically, you have three different options for procuring this software:

  1. Modular systems and ready-made apps: If you chose this option, you can either lease separate components and modules, such as “image viewing” or a memory game, on a monthly basis for a two-digit sum or purchase them (for a three-digit amount), comparable to the modular systems you can book for building a website. The individual components may allow minor adjustments like changing the color scheme, at least to a certain degree.
  2. Individualized custom-made multi-touch software: If you go for this option, the software is conceptualized, designed, and developed especially for you and your purposes. This solution on the one hand side facilitates targeted and efficient use of cutting-edge technologies, on the other hand, its development is time‑consuming and hence costly (ballpark figures are in the four- and five-digit range).
  3. In-house development: Agencies (see above) or businesses in the gaming industry as well prefer to create their own solutions, starting from a simple web application to a full-fledged individualized multi-touch software.

Evaluating and assessing modular systems and ready-made apps is relatively easy: after payment and download you get exactly what you have seen in the demo video or in the trial version. No surprises there: what you see is what you get, no less … but no more, either. However, if this option fulfills your requirements and is in accordance with both your project’s aims and objectives (cf. item 1) and your budget (cf. item 2), this is a cost-effective solution worth considering.

Evaluation and assessment of a customized solution on the other hand is a little more complex. Here, basically everything that is possible is also feasible. For this, providers usually use pre-existing libraries and modules that later are adjusted and fine-tuned to the client’s specific needs. Total costs are calculated as the product of the number of days required for development and the provider’s respective day rate.

As part of the bid offer, work out a detailed feature catalogue for the software with the service provider. Also agree on regular feedback loops during development phase, in order to intervene if necessary before it’s too late. And to be on the safe side: ask the provider for testimonials and credentials from previous similar software projects.

“Multi-touch software” checklist

  • Up-to-date 3D development platform: Is one of the two leading platforms – either “Unity” or “Unreal” – used in the software’s development
  • Pre-existing 3D content: Can costs be reduced by using already existing components?
  • CMS integration: How can you populate the software with content, and how easy is it to handle later updating, alteration, or adding of content
  • Modular system: Does the provider allow for future upgrades, updates, or adjustments?
  • User Interface (UI): Is the user interface self-explaining, intuitive, and fun to use? Does it comply with your corporate design?
  • Multi-user interaction: Can several people at once collaborate at the table
  • User situation at the table: Can all four sides of the table be used equally and simultaneously, without a classical top-bottom/upside-downside dilemma arising?
  • Touch‑recognition protocol: Essentially, all solutions employ either the Windows touchscreen protocol or, in case of more sophisticated requirements like capacitance, the TUIO protocol. Ask the provider about the pros and cons of the protocol used.
  • Costs: Do you pay only once for the right to use the software, or on a monthly basis? What term does the contract or license have?

Tip: Is the development and realization of the multi-touch table part of a call for tenders? Why not separate the hard‑ from the software, so you can pick the best provider for each?

This blog entry is an excerpt from the comprehensive white paper “In 8 steps to a successful multi-touch table project”. If you would like to receive the whitepaper for free, please send an email with the subject “whitepaper” to info@garamantis.com.

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