DIY multi-touch on OS X



Bridger Maxwell has been blogging his progress on creating a homebrew multi-touch platform in OS X. Prior to this, there’s been a lot of activity around building multi-touch systems on Windows using the Touchlib library, but this is the first time I’ve seen a concerted effort on OS X.

The basic hardware is the same for both environments: LEDs surround a sheet of acrylic, causing a backscatter of IR when fingers are pressed to the screen. On the software side, though, the multi-touch interface is provided through Pawel Solyga’s OpenTouch library. From the sounds of things, though, it’s not super simple getting the interface messages from OpenTouch to your multi-touch enabled Cocoa apps:

Both OpenTouch and TouchLib send the touch data to other applications by sending Tangible User Interface Object (TUIO) network messages. TUIO is a protocol that is designed for transmitting the state of multi-touch systems. TUIO is built upon another protocol, Open Sound Control (OSC). While libraries for receiving TUIO messages are available in a few languages such as C++ or Java, there was not a solution for Cocoa applications. My first step was to build a library for receiving TUIO messages in Cocoa.

Because TUIO is built upon OSC, I looked for a library that could parse OSC messages. Unfortunately, I could not find one that would fill all my needs. WSOSC was a library that came close though. There were a few issues to work around (use NSData instead of NSString), but eventually I was able to use WSOSC to parse the OSC packets. When finished, my framework had the ability to parse TUIO messages and had a method to delegate the TUIOCursor objects it created to another application.

From the blog comments, it sounds like Bridger is planning on releasing this middle layer when it gets a little further along. At the moment, though, he’s released a demo comic viewing application that uses his multi-touch project framework. If you’re interested in developing multi-touch apps for OS X, some of the discussions on Bridger’s blog would be a good place to start.

Bridger’s Multi-Touch Blog
OpenTouch Library

See also:
Make your own multitouch displays and software apps

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