Friday, May 29, 2009

Going Independent!

Today was my last day at CSG where I was Sr. Experience Architect focused on Microsoft Surface development. I decided to go independent and take advantage of some new opportunities in UI and multitouch development.

I enjoyed working with my friends at CSG and I wish them the best - I'm sure we'll stay in touch. In particular I would like to thank my boss, Zack for all the good laughs and the excellent rapport. All the best, my friend.

Working on the Microsoft Surface was a real blast and I plan to continue doing so as much as possible - I still own my Microsoft Surface unit.

My first contract calls for architectural review and then development of iPhone and Blackberry touch applications, which will be a lot of fun. I might even get to do some Windows Mobile 7 development (again multitouch). After that who knows, perhaps I'll go back to doing contracting work developing more Microsoft Surface applications or working as an enterprise architect again. If you are in the market for a multitouch designer or an enterprise architect I'm now available and very eager to help!

I look forward blogging more about multitouch and being a part of the third wave in Human-Computer Interaction (the 1st being command-line and the second being WIMP). For now, however, its time to go out and celebrate.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Microsoft releases Touch Pack for Windows 7

Microsoft announced the availability of Microsoft Touch Pack for Windows 7 a collection of 6 applications (3 games and 3 applications) that demonstrate multitouch on Windows 7.

The release is for Original Equipment Manufactures (OEMs) for now but may be released to the general public later in the year.

There is a video demonstration on of the 6 applications. The video is a bit tiresome but at least gives you a look at the 6 applications.

My take on this is that the applications are not all that impressive and while they may demonstrate aspects of multitouch they are, for the most part, ugly and uninspired. The only one I thought was good was the Microsoft Surface Globe application.

Sadly, these applications will probably be most people's first introduction to multitouch on a form factor larger than the iPhone. Ah well, lets hope someone invents some more compelling and practical applications.

NOTE: As a side note its interesting that Microsoft has used the name "Surface" in some of the application names. Most people assume this is because they were ported from Microsoft Surface applications, which might be the case, but I suspect this is a foray into expanding the "Surface" brand.

Jefferson Han's Demonstration of Pressure Sensitive Multitouch

In October of 2008 Jefferson Han (who presented the seminal demonstration of multitouch at TED 2006) and Philip Davidson of Perceptive Pixel, demonstrated some pretty impressive 2D object manipulation on a multitouch surface that can detect pressure.

In this video, presented at the ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology 2008 (UIST 2008), Han (or is it Philip?) shows how pressure can be combined to add a third dimension to multitouch manipulation.

What is really cool about the video demo is not that the multitouch surface can register pressure, but the way in which pressure is used to extend gestures while arranging objects on the screen. The only vendor I know of that offers multitouch with varying pressure sensitivity is Stantum which I wrote about back in February.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

ZuneHD: It's the Ecosystem that Matters

There is no shortage of coverage about the ZuneHD, the direct competitor to the iPhone, which Microsoft announced yesterday. For all intents and purposes it's pretty much an iPhone knock-off which is simply showing that Microsoft is not blind to the success of the iPhone.

While the mainstream press seems focused on its features (which include multitouch) I'm more interested in the ecosystem around the ZuneHD.

The iPhone has an ecosystem that is absolutely huge with over 35,000 applications available for easy download, purchase, and installation on your phone.

As I mentioned before that's something that is really going to be hard for other multitouch smartphone makers to complete. How can you catch up? Having said that, I think ZuneHD - assuming it offers features comperable to the iPhone - has a pretty good chance of competing on the ecosystem level. Why? Because there are millions of Microsoft developers who would like nothing better than to write iPhone-like applications using Microsoft .NET rather than learning a new platform, namely the iPhone SDK, Objective-C and Coco.

Don't underestimate the the size of the Microsoft development community or, given a decent product, their ability to complete with applications in the market place. Take the XBox for example. Could anyone but Microsoft have cracked the video game industry? I doubt it yet XBox is a serious compeditor against Sony and Nintendo. Could the ZuneHD offer real compitition to the iPhone both in terms of features and ecosystem? Assuming the product is solid and the application store is easy to use, I think it can.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Magical mirrors can be found in everything from Snow White to Harry Potter, but while those mirrors are fictional real interactive mirrors are starting to make appearances in department stores and in Human-Computer Interaction research.

Take for instance this multitouch interactive mirror by LitStudios or the magical mirror in Disneyland's Innovation Dreams Home or the interactive mirror tested in a N.Y. Bloomingdales. It's a concept that when combined with multitouch would seem to have real appeal for retail clothing outlets.

Admittedly the examples I've seen (with the exception of LitStudio's) are pretty crude in terms of aesthetics but the potential is enormous.

What if you could go into a department store, put on a simple smock fitted with visual markers and then see yourself in any clothing offered. It sure would cut down on the time in the dressing room and it would probably drive sales. You sift though dozens of options, choose the ones you like and then try them on for real.

xXtraLab's Multitouch Table

Thanks to Lynn Marentette for the heads up on xXtraLab's cool i-TeaTable an experimental multitouch surface device that is pretty big and has the form factor of a tea tray rather than a coffee table.

What's the difference between a tea tray and coffee table? . The Taiwan tea tray is set very low to the ground compared to the western coffee table. In addition the way in which people use a Taiwan tea tray is decidedly different than a coffee table. With a tea tray you sit on your knees close to the tray. A coffee table is used to rest your drinks while you sit in a chair. It's a subtle but important difference.

Apparently, from the perspective of designers I've spoken to, the Microsoft Surface is too low. They tell me that a multi-touch table needs to be a little more than waste high to be effective. But is that a Western sensibility? The i-TeaTable is even lower than the Microsoft Surface.

I believe that such a broad generalization is wrong. Doesn't the form factor of the table depend on the context in which the device is used? If you watch the video of the i-TeaTable everyone involved is on there knees and seem quite comfortable snuggling up to the padded sides of the table to interact with it.

The bottom line, in my opinion, is that the form factor depends on the context, which includes not only the setting in which the device will be used but the cultural context.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Is Piper Jaffray wrong about the Apple Tablet?

It's pretty much all over the press now that Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster has predicted that Apple will indeed be releasing a larger tablet computer but that it won't happen until 2010.

Of course I was pretty disappointed, but having been an industry analyst at one point myself I know something about the process of making predictions. When there is very little evidence, market predictions are mostly guess work and gut instinct. So how good is Gene Munster's gut instinct? Based on a couple articles I found he's batting about 50/50 (Note: A sample size of two is not significant; only anecdotal).

A 2005 article on the possibility of Apple developing an iPhone quoted Munster predicting that the device would come out in 2006 or 2007. Chalk one up for Munster.

However he also predicted that same year that Apple would come out with a 1 terabyte iPod within 5 years, but so far that didn't turn out to be true (not yet anyway). Maybe Apple will announce a 1 terabyte iPod at the World Wide Developer Conference this year instead of the tablet computer. We'll find out pretty soon.

Personally, I hope Apple does introduce a multiouch tablet computer ( a real tablet not a laptop with a swivel screen) this year and throws egg on Gene Munster's face. Not because I dislike Gene Munster - I don't even know him - but only because (and this is very selfish I know) I want one and I don't want to wait until 2010 to get it.

Multitouch In Public Spaces

According to boingboing MIT is working an a futuristic bus stop with built-in touch screens for looking up schedules and bus routes.

The use of multitouch is bound to enter the public spaces of our lives be it the shopping mall, store fronts, bus stops, information stations, vending machines, or everywhere else that you need to get information about something in a public space.

These multitouch systems will have very different design challenges than multitouch on your home computer or mobile phone. We have to consider things like privacy, multiple users with different objectives, and so on. It's mind-numbing to think about all the possible applications of multitouch and the different design considerations that need to be addressed across so many environments and form factors.

Touch Screen Market woth $9 Billion by 2015

A report from DisplaySearch says that the total market revenue expected from touch screen technologies will rise to $9 Billion Dollars by 2015. What does that mean? Well the music industry is estimated to be worth around $20 billion and the video game industry is estimated to be worth about $40 billion today, so its a pretty large amount of money.

Of course touch screen technology could eventually eclipse these other industries because touch and multitouch can be used on any surface from computer monitors, to mobile phones, to walls, tables, cars, store fronts, jewlery and credit cards, virtual ink, and just about every object you can think of - we are not limited by the application but by the progress of technology and the technology is progressing quickly.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

InfoStrat.VE - Virtual Earth for Surface

Back in February I posted about a very cool mapping solution developed by InfoStrat for Microsoft Surface.

About six weeks ago InfoStrat released an open source Virtual Earth component that can be used with WPF including a version for Microsoft Surface. The project and component is available on CodePlex and is called InfoStrat.VE.

I can't tell you how grateful I am to InfoStrat for releasing this code as open source. I've personally worked through many of the headaches described in the Channel9 video on InfoStrat.VE and I was very happy when they released this as open source.

I've used MapDotNet to implement a mapping solution for a client and it worked pretty well but required a lot of tweaks to get the multitouich manipulations to work smoothly on a component designed for WIMP.

I haven't used the InfoStrat.VE component as of yet, but as soon as I need to develop a mapping application for Surface again I'm going to try it out. I would love to hear from people who have used it how well it works and how much tweaking, if any, is required to do overlays and map pins. It's my understanding that overlays will be supported in the next version of the application - that will make the solution really compelling for Surface developers.

[thanks to Gold Cost for the heads up on the Channel9 video]

Windows 7 Managed Code APIs

Microsoft has made available the Windows API Code Pack for Microsoft .NET Framework which, according to this article, includes support for multitouch development.

I haven't had a chance to play with it yet (need a multitouch Windows machine first) but its great to see Microsoft focused on the .NET crowd not just the C/C++ developers.

There is a video demo of an application a couple of folks developed which showcases multitouch capabilities in a medical x-ray light box. Not too fancy but interesting none-the-less.

If you get a chance to play around with it, leave some feedback on this blog post and tell us what you think.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Magic Wand

We've all seen how successful the Nintendo Wii has been - half the people I know own one. The Wii remote is a like a magic wand with an accelerometer and buttons. But what if you did not need the buttons? What if you could use only in-the-air gestures with the wand to telegraph your intentions? Sounds more like a magic wand from books and movies now doesn't it?

The Magic Wand is exactly what Microsoft is attempting to patent in a resent USPO application that's getting peoples attention (including my own!). But the question I have is this: are in-the-air gestures enough?

I believe that the combination of multitouch and voice commands has enormous potential and this is also true of tangible computing, another subset of Natural User Interfaces. Imagine picking up your own personal wand and pointing to a lamp and saying "On". That would be truly cool. It would be even better if you could program your own key word commands. Luminos!

A friend of mine, Chad LaVigne, remarked once that programming is the closest thing there is to magic. I couldn't agree more. We weave incantations in an obscure language and create something from nothing with a simple gesture (click the "build and run" button). Our books of magic are source code and our magic wand is the humble computer mouse.

What is really cool about Natural User Interfaces is that its puts the magic in the hands of every day people. Isn't the multitouch table like a magic pool? Isn't the Wii remote like a magic wand? We have a long way to go before these devices become "invisible" but I think we are actually entering the first period in human history where magic is becoming a reality not just a fancy.

The Advantage of Device Specific Multitouch SDKs

Last week I was accepted into the Palm Pre developer program - its been closed to the general public and requires an application. I'm looking forward to learning how to develop applications for this device which will help to expand my skill set and understanding of multitouch design.

What is interesting is that the multitouch platform, by which I mean the hardware, operating system and SDK, has a huge impact on multitouch design.

Developing multitouch applications specific to a platform is really the best experience. A single device and OS provides you with a known set of capabilities and idiosyncrasies that make development (once you understand the capabilities and idiosyncrasies) much easier than a platform independent solution.

While I'm an advocate of promoting platform independent multitouch APIs (I've even posted about developing one for the Java Programming Language) I know from years of Java experience that developing platform independent applications has some serious pitfalls - the biggest being different behavior on different platforms. This was a really serious issue with Java desktop development back in the mid to late 90's but is less of a concern today. That said, accounting for different capabilities and behaivors on different platforms remains a major hurdle for developers of Java mobile applications.

What will be interesting is when Windows 7 is released and implemented across so many different computational devices and input screens. I suspect that there will be some major head-aches ahead for all of us on that front. Still I'm excited about how Windows 7 is going to grow the user base of mutlitouch.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

BrainLAB's Digital Lightbox

I just read about BrainLAB's Digital Lightbox: a super cool, multitouch, display that allows doctors to view and interact with x-rays, CAT scans and other medical visualizations and data. Check out the video for some inspiration. (thanks to Lynn Marentette of the Interactive Media Technology blog for the lead!)

BrainLAB has lots of great medical applications for this device. It reminds me of the Microsoft video about the future of digital health care.

From the original post on Ubergizmo:

"Digital Lightbox replaces the conventional light box used to observe analog x-ray images. Connected to the hospital PACS, the new digital platform can be installed both in meeting rooms and in operating rooms, where clinicians can then access, manipulate, and utilize data for surgery planning. By displaying the human body in 3D, Digital Lightbox helps clinicians to more clearly demonstrate to patients what effects a disease can have and which procedures may be necessary. Digital Lightbox enables clinicians to select the most valuable images from large amounts of existing medical data. Ergonomic touchscreen technology with zoom functionality makes working with data easy and effective. Clinicians can intuitively navigate within pictures and between settings. Image scrolling can be performed with one finger; zooming in and out of images with two. Images from different sources can also be fused easily. A measure functionality enables clinicians to set size and other dimensions."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Multitouch Simulator for Flash Programmers

I've mentioned more than once that Flash has a bright future in multitouch. The most popular way to do multiouch with Flash is using the TUIO interface, which is open source and available for free.

While TUIO helps, another hurdle to implementing multitouch in Flash is the fact that you need a multitouch screen or device. This is not a problem specific to Flash - any multitouch platform suffers from the dearth of supporting hardware. That's why Microsoft Surface, the iPhone SDK, and Palm Pre webOS all include an emulator or simulator.

Matt LeGrand has just released a multitouch simulator, SimTouch, for use with Flash and TUIO. Now you can experiment with Flash multitouch development without having to buy a multitouch screen or some expensive multitouch table. It's open source and free which makes it all that more attractive. Nice work Matt!

Materials Used to Build Multitouch Screens Matter to Multitouch Designers

Touch screens we are most familiarize with BiP (before the iPhone) are resistive. Thats what they use at McDonnalds and your ATM. The iPhone introduced projected capacitive screens to the masses, but the question is what's the difference?

This article at does an excellent job of explaining the differences and the reason why projected capacitive screens are coming into favor over resistive screens.

Why is this important? Well, the materials used to manufacture multitouch screens has a direct impact on the gestures and interactions multitouch designers can use with those systems.

Both resistive and projected capacitive screens rely on a rare material called Indium Tin Oxide (ITO) which is expensive produce and, as its discussed in this article by NanoMarkets, is likely to be userped by less expensive easier to obtain materials.

Finding alternatives to ITO will change the way that multitouch screens are manufactured and the way we use multitouch devices depends in large part on how they are made. You cannot simply invent multitouch gestures and interactions will-nilly and expect them to work on all types of multitouch hardware. Technical limitations of the materials used to create multitouch screens have a direct impact on the gestures and features available.

For example, multitouch in resistive screens has been difficult to achieve and until the introduction of Stantum's resistive screens were pretty much written off as a multitouch implementation technology. Projected capacitive screens on the other hand cannot detect variances in presure - not yet. Hacks like the Blackberry Storm's clickable-screen get around that somewhat, but they tend to be clunky compared to resistive screens ability to detect varity degrees of presure.

The bottom line is that no matter what we want to do in terms of gestures and interactions, we will always be constrained by the materials used to produce multitouch screens. Keeping this in mind as a designer is critical to making good design decisions. This is especially true with multitouch platform like Windows 7 which are bound to be deployed on many different devices that use different multitouch technology.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Java Multitouch API Standard

I come from a Java background and was heavily involved in the Java Community Process Executive Committee and also participated in the development of a couple of specifications (e.g. EJB, and Groovy). So I'm interested in multitouch succeeding in Java as much as any platform.

There are several multitouch APIs that support the use the Java programming language and with the introduction of Windows 7 and Mac OS X Snow Leopard there are bound to be more.

I'm thinking of proposing a new Java Specification Request called Java Multi-Touch API, which would provide an abstraction compatible with as many multi touch libraries as possible. The idea is to lower the barrier to entry for the Java community which has not yet embraced multitouch but will certainly need to before the end of next year (if not earlier).

I'm interested in talking to folks who have developed multitouch APIs for other platforms, or ported multitouch APIs to Java, to work with me to propose a multitouch API for the Java Platform, Standard Edition.

I suspect with multitouch becoming a standard part of operating systems that Sun/Oracle will include it in the Java Platform, Standard Edition in the future but will probably offer it as an extension API in the interim. As members of the multitouch community we can (A) stand by and wait for Sun to put this together and hope they get it right or (B) take the lead now and propose the development of a specification. I would prefer to do the later.

I know a lot of people believe that Java is dead on the client (JavaFx hasn't helped change anyone's mind), but the fact is: a lot of client development is still done in Java (possibly more than Coco for the Mac) and the Java community will need a good, platform agnostic API in order to support multitouch input.

If you have the credentials and are interested in joining me in the development and execution of a proposal for a Java Multitouch API, than please send an email to me at (beware I have an aggressive challenge and response email account, so if I don't respond quickly check your junk folder for the challenge).

I want Java, which has a development community of over 6 million, to support as many multi-touch systems as possible. Do you?

Linja Zax - Touch Enabling Firefox Mobile

Firefox has included support for trackpad-based multi-touch input for the Mac since December in its 3.5 beta (previously called the 3.1 beta), but what about Firefox for mobile devices?

Apparently the folks developing Fennec, the Firefox mobile browser, are on top of this and there's even been a proposed multitouch design, but Linja Design isn't waiting for Fennec to roll out multitouch support. Linja Design has already developed a multitouch interface to mobile Firefox called, Linja Zax.

Linja Zax, as shown in this video and covered previously on this blog, is pretty slick. It's a firefox add-in that allows you to zoom and pan the Firefox browser with a single finger or thumb.

Will Fennec adopt Linja Zax, which is also an open source project, or will it invent its own gestures for zoom and pan. Time will tell.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Microsoft Surface SP1

Devin Coldewey of CrunchGear has posted a blog and video showing off the features of Microsoft Surface SP1 - the update to the Microsoft Surface software. There are some pretty nice additions but nothing too radical.

For end users some new affordances are available such as a humming sound when the water attract screen is touched. More importantly are the addition of auras which provide feedback on finger contacts.

Microsoft has also added a very nice "item menu" system which looks like it works well and will help standardize the pop menus used with Surface applications.

They've done a lot of other things behind the scenes as well such as making drag and drop easier to develop (my co-worker Awesome Bob will appreciate that). They are also providing a testing system which, as Devin puts it, acts like a hundred monkeys pounding on the surface.

Finally, they are going to be moving identity tags into production availability - we've worked with identity tags before but as there is no easy way to print them we are looking forward to having better access to them. Nice work, Microsoft!

MudTub: Weird But Interesting

Tom Gerhardt has developed a new "organic" interface based on a tub of mud.

By manipulating the mud in the tub interactions are converted into computer input in the same way that free air gestures or multitouch are converted into computer input. The primary difference being that (a) you get tactile feedback from the mud and (b) you get dirty using it.

I'm not sure if this has broader applications but the concept of using a mailable 3d material to interact with computers is not completely new - this however is the first time I've seen the idea put to the test.

The question is: Is this a Tangible User Interface (TUI) or an Organic User Interface (OUI)? I lean toward TUI as an organic use interface would need, in my opinion, to be built on input devices that can change form and whose form also represents the information being manipulated. Mud fulfills the first requirement but not the second as defined here.

It's hard to imagine the practical applications of the MudTub but it looks like it would be fun to try out and I can see the possibilities when working with the disabled. That said, for now I'll just call it weird but interesting.

Friday, May 8, 2009

N-Trig DuoSense Development System

N-Trig's DuoSense, the technology used in the Latitude multitouch laptop and convertible tablet, is going to release the N-Trig DuoSense Development System which appears to be a hardware screen overlay with an SDK. Full Story provided by Josh Blake. (also see N-Trig drivers for Windows 7 Beta).

That will be nice as it won't require multitouch developers to buy an actual machine with DuoSense built in. Of course, developing device independent multitouch is challenging - I would much rather have a target device - but its going to be an important option as Windows 7 democratizes multitouch for the masses.

The thing I really like about N-Trig DuoSense is that it supports both multitouch and pen based input - thus the name "DuoSense". In my opinion you can't use multitouch for productivity applications without also supporting pen-based input.

Video Introductions to Multitouch Development on Windows 7

Channel 9 at MSDN has posted a couple of interesting and informative videos on multitouch support for Windows 7.

Part 1 of the video series provides an excellent overview of the various levels of multitouch support (i.e. Good, Better, Best) in Windows 7. Part 2 is a deep dive video on developing multitouch applications for Windows 7 in C++.

If you are a multitouch enthusiast, but not yet a developer check out the Part 1. If you are a developer with experience in C++ check out both Part 1 and Part 2. Nice work guys!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Natural User Interface Multi-Touch Summit 2009

Back in January of this year I wrote a blog about Adobe and the NUIGroup putting together a conference in Europe. Well, they did it. The conference is in Germany and is sponsored by Adobe and Natural User Interface Europe AG of Sweden.

The conference focuses on the development of multitouch applications using Adobe Flash, Flex and AIR.

I really think there is a big future in developing multitouch applications using Adobe Flash technology. Sadly, I won't be able to attend but perhaps you can! Here is the site with more details including the presentation schedule.

N-Trig Drivers for Windows 7

While Windows 7 is multitouch the N-Trig touch screens shipped with the Dell Latitude XT and Latitude XT2 are "DuoSense" which means they can process both pen and finger touch, but only two finger contacts at a time. Actually, this is probably enough for most uses but still....

N-Trig has announced the immediate availability of drivers for its touch screens on the Dell machines that can now support multitouch (more than two fingers). This is great news because there exists so few true mutlitouch machines out there for the average consumer to take advantage of Windows 7 RC.

If you have been itching to try out the Windows 7 RC multitouch capabilities on a laptop or convertible tablet, now's your chance!

Update: A couple hours later

There is a pretty decent review of the new N-Trig drivers for Windows 7 at the web site.

Large Multitouch Device for the U.S. Navy

At the recent Navy League conference, DRS Technologies demonstrated their Global Situational Awareness platform, a large multitouch table intended for use by Navy command.

It's pretty cool application that allows multiple devices to share views, overlay a crazy assortment of map layers, play video feeds and much more.

Unlike many Surface applications, DRS's application is oriented toward a single user with menu options along the bottom and left-hand border. It seems pretty slick and would work well for a single user, probably a commander or tactical officer, but I can't help but feel that the single orientation of the device might be a handicap.

Imagine the user wanting to confer with others in a situation room or on the bridge, they would all need to align themselves with the users perspective to get a proper view of the application. Single orientation makes great sense for single user applications, but in this case it seems likely that more than one person will be viewing the screen at least some of the time.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

3DV Makes the Wii Look Positively Archaic

Back in February I posted a blog entry about 3VD which was developing a imaging system that could detect in-the-air gestures in all three dimensions.

The technology has continued to evolve as evidenced in the video from CES 2008.

The boxing demonstration reminds me of the scene in "The Island" where McGregger and Johanasson characters duke it out using holographic avatars. It was a cool scene and it looks like, once again, the Science Fiction of the movies are about to be realized with today's technologies. Microsoft is rumored to be integrating the 3VD technology with its XBox 360 to create a Wii-Killer.

Beyond Video games 3DV technology could allow for more accurate, responsive, and most importantly much cheaper technology for free-form gestures in productivity applications.

Inexpensive In-the-Air Gesture Surface

Students at the Northeastern University have put up a video demonstrating what would appear to be a very inexpensive technology that can detect free-form gestures above a surface in 3D-Space.

The device uses copper plates which emit harmless electrostatics to detect the position and motion of hands near or several inches above the surface.

This would be a fun technology for hobbyists at this point and may have some interesting commercial applications. From what I can tell the device could be mass produced and sold for under $100.00 given the simple materials and electronics involved.

Fun4Four Large Multitouch Game-Table

TAB-Austria who manufactures and distributes "entertainment terminals" offers its own large-multitouch table for playing games with up to 4 people called Fun4Four.

The table, which sports a 42" Diagonal screen and (according to TAB-Austria) good resolution uses the 3M multitouch display technology, MicroTouch DST.

DST (Dispersal Signal Technology [pdf]) uses piezoelectric sensors that detect pressure from fingers or a stylus. It's very different from other multitouch technologies and would appear to have some really interesting applications outside of gaming, including drafting and productivity applications. A video explaining the technology produced by 3M can be found here.

I'm not sure what the development platform is for Fun4Four. The table has some nice features like its tollerance for liquid spills, the ability to ignore objects (e.g. drink glasses and ashtrays), and the fact that its height is adjustable. the form factor is pretty interesting as well with its narrow stem its much easier, it would seem, to approach and interact with sitting down then the Microsoft Surface.

p.s. Sorry for the long hiatus - I was too busy coding a multitouch solution to write about multitouch.