Interactive tables come in many shapes and forms and are created for different interaction styles and concepts. Many examples of interactive tables exist and recently, commercially available interactive tabletops have been introduced to the consumer, such as the Microsoft Surface, Philips Entertaible and NUI. However, discussion about how these tables were designed has not been adequately disseminated. In fact, little has been reported in the literature about the different design decisions and trade-offs that are made when constructing interactive tables despite the fact that such decisions can have a profound impact on a successful outcome.
Moreover, the majority of interactive tables that are in use today are custom-made, meaning that there is no off-the-shelf solution or defined way to build a table – developers must make design solutions based on their unique requirements, skills and expertise. Typically, researchers and developers use a trial-and-error approach to building their table which can be both costly and time consuming and, in the case of research, divert attention and resources away from the main focus of the particular investigations.
To be sure, adopting a DIY approach to the design of interactive tables allows developers to gain a distinct advantage since they can customize the table in ways that are not possible with commercial technology. For example, in research we can link together different sensor devices, projection equipment, or sound in unconventional ways, which are not normally allowed with tightly controlled platforms – a limitation that has been recently highlighted by the severe restrictions placed on extending mobile phone hardware for example.
The increasing popularity and use of interactive tables suggests a greater need for understanding the design trade-offs for building interactive tables. This paper describes the iterative design and development of two tables for tracking object and multi-touch interaction. The authors aim is to assist developers in making good design decisions when building interactive tables to help flatten the learning curve and reduce development time. This paper acts as a stepping-stone for future research and development of interactive surfaces.