The Touch Tunnel explores the boundaries of what we consider a computer interface by turning 12 panels of a stretchy fabric tunnel into a multitouch screen that lights up with every push sending sparks and lava lamp like interaction across the walls.
The Touch Tunnel tests the idea of having multitouch screen everywhere in a low cost damage free way. We could achieve this using traditional technology by placing rows of big high resolution touch sensitive displays all over the walls, however it would be extremely expensive, hard, heavy, susceptible to being damaged and costly to repair.
By making all the walls out of fabric we make the surface fun to touch, easily washable and replaceable if they were damaged. Also by keeping all the electronics away from the surface it's unlikely that any real damage would occur.
By using 3 kinect cameras we are able to achieve a flexible multitouch system that can map large areas of interaction with minimal cost.
All of the Touch Tunnel's visualization settings are controllable via an iPad using OSC so DJs can tap into the system so that the visuals can be controlled by their music in real-time.
The Touch Tunnel works by using the Kinect cameras to remember what each panel looks like when it's not being touched, then compared that image to the real-time depth image coming in, if it's a few inches closer it highlights those pixels then does blob tracking on them to determine the center of each cluster of highlighted pixels. Those tracked point in turn get transmitted via TUIO to a visualization software over UDP.
On the visualization side a lot of projection mapping and warping needs to take place in order for the touches to align. After the main visualization is rendered it is sliced into mappable sections to take care of the skewing. The touchable area also needs to be calibrated into the overall mapping since the kinects can't cover the entire surface accurately.
Each night of the event the visualization grew with complexity starting out with a flocking visualization where each touch would attract or repel flocks of particles that trailed off over time with velocity. The next night a fluid simulation was added to add more color and keep the tunnel brighter longer. The final night all the various settings to the installation were connected to OSC inputs so that every option could be controlled via an iPad or most DJ/VJ software, in this case Lemur for the iPad was used.
There were also some post processing effect like blooming, blending and blurring to give the whole installation a more dynamic look.
Overall people loved the magic of the Touch Tunnel's visuals and the feel of the smooth stretchy fabric.
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