Basically it's using more than one finger or point of contact on a computer or electronic device's interface to control software programs using gestures (ex: pinching images to shrink them) or allowing more than one person to use a program (ex: 2 students writing with digital ink). You have most likely seen multi-touch in products like the i-phone, Microsoft Surface, the CNN touch screen used in the 2009 elections. Here's what wikipedia has to say:
Multi-touch is a human-computer interaction technique and the hardware devices that implement it. Multi-touch consists of a touch screen or touch tablet (touchpad) that recognizes multiple simultaneous touch points and software to interpret simultaneous touches.
It's the next generation of human interaction with machines! Microsoft's next operating system, Windows 7 will support multi-touch and the devices that support Windows 7 will be able to take advantage of these new applications & touch features. So if you're using a single touch whiteboard, you won't be able to tap into the true touch potential of Windows 7 and other software titles that will support multi-touch.
Benefits for Educators:
1. New and exciting way to interact with content & software in the classroom.
2. Collaboration have more than one student manipulating and using the computer at once.
3. Use natural & intuitive interfaces to allow special needs users to overcome physical & mental accessibility issues that limits their interaction with software & hardware.
4. Using unique gestures to demonstrate, manipulate, simulate, & model processes.
5. The sheer awesomeness and "cool" points you will earn by making your Venn Diagram activity look like a scene from Minority Report.
Do interactive whiteboards have multi-touch?
Yes, SMART, HITACHI, InterWrite/e-instruction, & Promethean to name a few...
For today's post I'll show SMART and follow up with other brands later.
DVIT Plasma/LCD TV Overlay
Supports 2 points of contact
This is a digitizing frame that is placed on top of a compatible flat screen display and turns it into a giant touch screen or interactive whiteboard.
Feedback: Expensive solution (Overlay + Flat Screen TV), the single touch operation is good, but I've seen the multi-touch response act kind of funky, so it's not the most natural and smooth system. You have to get a "feel" for it as opposed to the other way around, meaning the technology should be compensate and understand your gestures and what you're trying to do as opposed to you touching it just right.
Supports more than 2 points of contact
The SMART Table is a multi-touch table that allows multiple students to play interactive games and participate in e-learning activities. It claims to be, "the first multitouch, multiuser interactive learning center that allows groups of primary students to work simultaneously on its surface. " That's funny, I thought that was the chalkboard. Just kidding.
Feedback: The SMART table is like a fisher price version of Microsoft Surface. I think the idea is there and it's a good concept product, but I can't imagine dropping $7K-$8K on this and only having 4-5 kids working on it. If it was a more scalable & affordable technology that could be built into classroom tables with software publishers actively creating content for it, then they would really have something. We will just have to wait and see...
I think this Surface Parody captures my skepticism on the SMART table:
SMART Board SBD600
New - Interactive Whiteboard
Supports 2 points of contact with certain restrictions.
The SMART Board SBD600 is SMART latest interactive whiteboard that allows 2 students to interact with it. It seems to be using their familiar touch resistive technology, so from my understanding they have achieved dual touch through hardware, firmware, & software tweaks. The writing area is divided into 2 sides and does require some physical pressure when making contact, but pretty cool for SMART lovers looking for dual input.
Feedback: It seems to have Hitachi's limitation of dividing the screen area in half when 2 users are writing. I'm guessing so the board can register the points of contact more easily. If the two users are too close to each other it might confuse the board, so you can't have 2 students freely writing wherever they want. Because the points of contact needs to be some distance apart this board is NOT likely to support the cool hand gestures such as zooming in and out. However, having 2 students interacting is a plus nonetheless.