Making DIY versions of Microsoft's multitouch Surface table seems to be so popular, even Microsoft themselves are getting in on the action. Somewhat bizarrely, the company has developed another multitouch platform, this time coming in a whole lot cheaper than the $10k Surface. TouchWall basically relies on three infrared lasers that scan the surface of a plexiglass board, and an infrared camera to register any touch against it; in Microsoft's demo of the system, they used a rear-projector, 4 x 6 foot plexiglass screen, and a basic Vista PC running the software app, Plex.
Check out the video demo of TouchWall after the cut
TouchWall lacks Surface's ability to recognise objects, but it can still be used to scroll, zoom in and out, control different functions and allow the user to draw on the display as if a whiteboard. While in the demo Microsoft used a rear-projection setup, in the earlier stages of the project they apparently used a simple cardboard screen with front-projection. They estimate total hardware cost coming in at just "hundreds of dollars".
So you'd think: cool product, obviously plenty of customer interest, straightforward for Microsoft to release Plex and a list of DIY hardware instructions; obvious good case for availability. But Microsoft seem to have had a crazy moment, and decided that they have no current plans to turn TouchWall into a commercial product. Considering this could come in far, far cheaper than current touch-sensitive whiteboards (and potentially scale to any size your room - and projector - will accommodate) it seems a missed opportunity.