5 years with a Touch Desk

After years of trails and errors (and frustrations), I finally managed to get a fun, efficient, and addictive touch desk.

Touch Desk

To get started with the touch desk, here is a quick video of the last prototype of my touch desk that definitively helps me being more productive day long.

I keep the software confidential for now and I will publish short videos during the Kickstarter campaign.

I started using a touch desk in 2011, and now it is part of my habits. I know what I can expect from it, and what I cannot. For example, as I use a regular keyboard and mouse on top of my touch desk, I know that a small touch area on the surface of the desk is better than to have all the surface touch sensitive.

I am using my touch desk mainly to:

  • View my metrics in real-time
  • Get alerts and notifications with call to actions
  • Quick access to tools and key information
In the picture you can see the low-end PC running the touch desk software in front, and the OLED TV under the glass in the background.

The touch desk works with any keyvoard. The mouse needs to be compatible on a glass surface.

First iteration for CES 2012

I finalized the first iteration of a touch desk – the EXOdesk – to showcase it with Viewsonic at CES 2012 and the feedback was incredible. Many articles about the EXOdesk was written end-2011 just before CES 2012, and during CES.

The Huffington Post: EXODesk By EXOPC: Coolest Gadget At CES 2012
The Huffington Post: EXOdesk Is An Interactive Touchscreen Workspace From The Future 
Geeky Gadgets: EXOdesk Interactive Desk Looks Amazing
CNET:: EXOdesk: Like Microsoft Surface, but lots cheaper
TechCrunch: The EXOdesk Is A Poor Man’s Microsoft Surface, But It’s Still Dripping With Multitouch Awesomeness
Engadget: EXOdesk Hands-on

In the video below you can see a demo published by HotHardware from the Viewsoonic Booth during the CES.

We concluded with ViewSonic that – back in 2012 – price point for an touch desk was still too expensive and technically challenging to launch a consumer product, but the experience proved how a touch desk attract people attention.

The problems was related to a large touch input, and to the temperature of the LED panels when positioned horizontally under a glass.

The modern version of the Touch Desk

After 5 years of iterations, the product is different: the touch is limited to an area and not to the entire surface – enabling a more natural use of the desk itself – and the display panel is OLED to improve the quality and avoid the temperature of the surtface of the desk to get uncomfortable.

This graphics shows the different elements: required for the touch desk to operate.
  • The touch area, materialized by an optical bar
  • A delimited area for the hardware keyboard
  • A delimited area for the mouse with the option to display a mouse pad.
  • The remaining surface that can be used to display information such as metrics and alerts.

The touch desk is connected

The software developed for the touch desk is composed of widgets that can be started, positioned, closed.  The list is growing quickly.

For example, in the picture below, the weather information is displayed around my keyboard, as well as the color codes I am using often.

The UI is composed of a rectangular, touch area where a menu appears. The icons in the menu shows or hides the corresponding widget.

Some of the widgets available:

  • Push text from the PC to the touch desk
  • The UI for the touch desk can changed based on the active app on the PC
  • Open an URL or a web based widget
  • Display counters and status (social networks, any XML feed supported)
  • Temperature, wind, weather, forecasts…
  • IFTTT integration
  • RSS feeds viewer
  • Clocks and timeline

In addition to the widgets, it is possible to set a static background image, a video background or an animated background.

Exploring a new form factor

The touch desk is a new form factor that positively contribute to the human-computer interactions. As a new form factor, most uses cases are to be implemented and this represents great opportunities.

The more you can customize the touch desk, the more efficient you will be. The touch desk software comes with multiple elements that can be customized.

Some experiments

The video below are snapshots of the multiple experiment that was run during the last 5 years to implement something efficient for everyone, day after day.

At the beginning, the touch desk software could do almost everything, everywhere on the surface of the desk. However, it became clear that some rules was required to keep thinks organized and to allow the user to adopt some habits.

Depending on the type of content, different type of interaction was tested. In the example below, reading a book  with a natural interface on a large touch panel is surprisingly efficient – because it allows you to perform fast visual searches as you naturally do in the physical world.

The main UI, a floating, expandable icon, is very efficient on a large touch desk with the whole surface touch sensitive. The new version of the software implement a different UI, more adapted to a day to day use.

In the classroom

I had the opportunity to run few experiments with universities. Here is an use case experimented in a classroom equipped with 24 touch desks. The students was able to pass a document from a desk to another, as well as to an Android tablet – or any other device as we was in BYOD situation.

More details in this article from the Huffington Post: ExoPC And Panama Team Up To Bring ‘Tablet Desks’ To Students

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