Siggraph 2005 logo
Conference Exhibition Call For Participation Presenters Media Registration

emerging technologies

TouchLight: An Imaging Touch Screen and Display for Gesture-Based Interaction

In this novel interactive display technology, the outputs of two video cameras behind a transparent projection display are combined to produce an image of objects on the display surface. An otherwise normal sheet of acrylic plastic is transformed into a high-bandwidth input/output surface suitable for gesture-based interaction.

Art and Science

Even in its current preliminary form, TouchLight establishes a relationship between the observer and the display that is more direct and intimate than has been seen before. For example, TouchLight has the ability to not only display what is placed on its surface, but also to see beyond the glass to what is in the environment. There is no requirement to make a distinction between what is on the surface and what is off the surface, and there is no cumbersome transition from one mode to the other. Users can interact with the display at a distance and in the next moment touch the display and every space in between.

In this way, TouchLight enables artists to explore novel ways of manipulating the observer's relationship with the image. From the perspective of science, TouchLight allows exploration of a wide variety of image-manipulation techniques, including computer vision, that take advantage of TouchLight's unique configuration to transition smoothly from surface sensing to sensing in depth.


Current goals include exploration of interaction techniques, signal processing algorithms and artistic installations that are idiomatic to this configuration. For example, the project team is less interested in driving a standard GUI interface with TouchLight and more interested in thinking about how an imaging touchscreen can be the centerpiece of a novel shell that supports multitouch, gesture, and multiple users in deep ways. The system's high-resolution capture of objects placed on the surface is also idiomatic: no other rear-projection-based interactive display can do this so directly.


TouchLight's core innovation is its configuration of display and cameras, and the accompanying signal processing algorithms that form the touch image. It is a unique application of the novel HoloScreen technology, and a unique application of computer-vision techniques to blend touchscreen and other perceptual user-interface techniques into one coherent interactive display.


TouchLight has implications for a future of ubiquitous computing in which potentially any surface in the world is a site of input and computation, and the very displays we use and spaces we inhabit are aware of our presence. In the future, computation will be everywhere, and desktop computing will be only one small part of the action. More likely, we will always be in touch with our data via wall-sized displays, which, coupled with the appropriate sensing systems, will accommodate a variety of interaction styles. "Casual" and mobile computing in which the various displays are annexed as needed according to your proximity and task will overtake the standard desktop computing model.

TouchLight blurs the boundaries between art and science as it challenges future designers to think about the relationship between the user/observer and the image, principally the domain of art, and the display. Similarly, it challenges our traditional idea of the shell. Does the future really include the kind of interface seen in "Minority Report?"


Andy Wilson
Microsoft Corporation
awilson (at)