What Is Touch Board? - 11 Dec 2013

touch board

Bare Creative recently opened a Touch Board page on the crowd funding website Kickstarter with a hugely successful response. The company beat their initial target of £15,000, receiving £122,907 from the community. But what is Touch Board, and how can it be used?

Touch Board is a tool designed to make your projects interactive, smart, and responsive. It works by connecting to almost any material or surface, turning it into a sensor, producing a number of responses that usually require a button or certain action.

The company behind Touch Board, Bare Creative, built the tool around one of their previous products, Electric Paint. The paint is a platform for playing, discovering, repairing, and designing with electronics, allowing you to create circuits by painting them, instead of building them with a soldering iron and components. The paint can be used to create switches for Touch Board, connecting to the sensors from painted images such as letters, for example, and producing the appropriate sound when those letters are pressed.

Distance Sensing

touch board distance sensing

The boards can be modified to produce any number of sounds simply by changing the twelve pre-set noises found on the device’s Micro SD card. Initially, each sensor is set to play one of the twelve sounds, but the device can be coded to respond in other ways. The best application shown for Touch Board so far is an interactive drum kit, built by painting twelve circles with Electric Paint and connecting them to the device. The board was programmed to respond to a user hovering their hand over the circles, producing one of twelve drum noises, and effectively demonstrating the device’s distance sensing ability.

As a distance sensor, Touch Board can effectively react to a user up to 20cm away. A visual representation of this is shown on the product’s Kickstarter page, reacting to a hand as it moves up and down above a painted circle, and making different noises as someone walks by three separately painted sensors. This application alone would be useful to all shop owners who don’t want to install a bell or an expensive audio device.

Bare Creative has released the code for turning Touch Board into a distance sensor, as well as the codes for many other applications, meaning people don’t need to limit the way they use it to simply producing audio responses. However, there’s no reason new code can’t be written to make Touch Board respond in new ways, and Backers from Kickstarter are already hard at work writing theirs.

Ardunio-Compatibility

touch board ardunio-compatability

In addition to modifying the device with new code, users can also install Ardunio accessories, (Ardunio is an electric prototyping platform) further increasing the range of uses for Touch Board. Just one example of Touch Board using an Ardunio accessory is its application as an in-office doorbell system. The device is mounted on a wall outside the office with pictures of different doorbells, painted in electric paint, connected to it With each of these labeled with a different person’s name. By using the XBee shield, the Touch Board could set off an alarm on each person’s desk, depending on which one was pressed on the wall outside the office.

Thanks to its Ardunio-compatibility, Touch Board has potentially limitless functionality. An artist could plan a piece of art around the use of several boards, using each to produce a different response to a user’s touch. One set of responses could be sounds, the other videos or images on a screen, and yet another as lights built into the art. Someone could even go as far as using motors to produce vibrations in certain parts of the art, all of which will help to convey the artist’s message, and further involve viewers in the piece itself.

Mobile Applications

touch board mobile applications

As Android and iOS developers, what we’re really excited about is using Touch Board to interact with mobile devices. The device could be used to create interactive walls at events, and in shops and other places, which are used as a way of having people interact with a quiz or another game. Users would log into the game via their mobile, following on screen instructions to touch different parts of the wall as answers to questions, or to see how fast they can move between groups.

A quiz could even simply display images as clues, leaving users to figure out and find the right area of the wall to touch. Multiple users could play at once through the use of iBeacon, sending helpful hints when users enter an area near the answer, ensuring players know they’re heading in the right or wrong direction.

Yet another mobile application for Touch Board is navigation. Interactive maps painted with Electric Paint in museums and at large functions could send phones instructions on how to reach the location touched.  This would be incredibly useful for anyone wanting to get to a certain part of an event, or even someone on holiday wanting to see a certain piece of art.

With Touch Board now more than fully funded, more and more ideas and applications will arise over the coming years. As a way of pooling the community’s ideas, the company is planning a global Hackday for early next year, feeding the creativity that will lead to more functions for the board being produced.

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