Using Arduinos for multi-touch tables to save budgets…

Arduino Science
Using Arduinos for multi-touch tables to save budgets…

This article was about spending cuts but this caught my eye… The UA Flandrau Science Center is going to roll their own multi-touch tables using Arduino…

…Faust says that typical exhibit designs and construction can be expensive–and that exhibits break down or get boring after awhile. Therefore, the UA thinks a different approach is in order: Flandrau plans on using open-source hardware and software technologies that can easily be built and fixed in-house. (Open-source software and networks are developed by computer experts who believe in the free sharing of technology and information.)

One cost-saving example that Faust cites: The UA Science Center plans to use dozens of touch-screen tables and interactive walls. Faust says one company the university contacted, GestureTek, makes touch-screen tables similar to the type that the UA wants to use–and charges $50,000 per table.

“Our exhibits director believes that we could produce a comparable table at 55 inches, with multi-touch and object recognition, for approximately $10,000 using our open-source hardware and software,” Faust says.

In addition, GestureTek only provides a one-year warranty, and then the Science Center would be on its own. If the center wants to change the content of the GestureTek table, it could be forced pay $5,000 to $35,000 to reprogram it.

“We could change the content in-house for little or nothing,” Faust says. “I think this really demonstrates the power of the open-source approach that we are using.”

An article in the October issue of Wired magazine offers some clues into the technology to be used at the yet-to-be built UA Science Center. The story is about Arduino, an Italian company that makes circuit boards specifically for open-source networks. Arduino puts of all its schematics, designs and software on its Web site for anyone to download for free. The catch is that plans and software designed from Arduino’s materials must be put on the Internet for others to use–which is what the UA Science Center plans to do with its exhibit designs. In fact, Faust says, several exhibit specs have already been discussed and tweaked by posting the plans on open-source networks.


Arduinogiftguide Redo2
Arduino Gift Guide! – The Arduino open-source microcontroller platform can be programmed and equipped to perform a nearly endless list of functions. It’s likely the best all-around centerpiece to a modern electronics project. But one of the tasks Arduino is best used for is straight-up fun – the open design means there’s an Arduino board suitable for almost any project, and a wealth of add-on “shields” extends its abilities with ease.

6 thoughts on “Using Arduinos for multi-touch tables to save budgets…

  1. Patti Jordan says:

    Your story concerning the UA Flandau Science Center contained significant misinformation concerning the cost and features of the multi-touch surface computing table offered by GestureTek Inc. The cost for GestureTek’s standard 55” table is less than $30K. Our costs are extremely competitive and our interactive systems have been installed in thousands of Science Centers worldwide. Our technology is also TUIO compliant; therefore, any FLASH, C++ or Python programmer can easily customize their own content at no cost by using freely available open source applications or by writing their own source code. GestureTek only offers custom content development services upon request. We are proud of our position as the pioneer, multiple patent holder and 20-year leader in the field of video gesture control applications. Others need to consider whether they are at risk of violating our patents.

    Patti Jordan
    Director Marketing & Communication
    GestureTek Inc.

  2. Phillip Torrone says:

    hey patti – MAKE did not write that story, we covered it and wrote about the original story from here:

    if you’d like i can put your comment under the post so folks can see gesturetek’s point of view too – but if you have specific comments about the article contact tuscon weekly.

    to follow up on your comment, when you say “others need to consider whether they are at risk of violating our patents” – what do you mean by that?

  3. rivetgeek says:


    You need to consider consulting an IP attorney. Patents only cover commercial products. If I wanted to make a replica segway for my company’s use, there isn’t anything wrong with that. I’m pretty sure the science center isn’t looking to sell this especially since they are open sourcing the construction details. Hence your argument is totally unfounded.

    And let’s face it Patti, anyone who CAN build their own, will. I’m willing to bet your demographic isn’t hardware hackers though. You sell your product to companies that are willing to pay your costs. By that very definition, these companies can not, or will not, hack together their own.

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