Multitouch on a Mac without a Touchscreen


As you may have noticed it’s been a little quiet around here lately. The reason for this is that since the end of 2013 I have been keeping myself busy with a studio remodel (more on that later) followed by concentrating on preparations for a performance (I’m pleased to announce) at Echofluxx 14 in Prague, May 2014. Here’s a quick note about Echofluxx 13 from their site:

The Echofluxx 13 is a festival of new media, visual art, and experimental music produced by Efemera of Prague with Anja Kaufmann and Dan Senn, co-directors. In cooperation with Sylva Smejkalová and early reflections, the Prague music school (HAMU), and Academy of Fine Arts (AVU), Echofluxx 13 will present international and Czech presenters in a five-day festival at the Tracfačka Arena in Prague, Kurta Konráda 1, Prague 9, May 7-11, 2013. For more information contact:

I’ll discuss more details about this upcoming performance in another post. For now I would like to bring attention to the possibility of using the Mac trackpad and/or Apple’s Magic Trackpad for multitouch. My performance at Echofluxx involves using custom built software to loop granular audiovisual media. This idea evolved from projects in the past that used a 32″ touchscreen. This time the media will be projected, so I naturally decided to use the iPad as the controller. I built the project using Cycling ’74 Max and MIRA, which was very convenient, but I couldn’t get over the latency using the iPad over WiFi for multitouch controls.

I decided that the most convenient alternative would be to use the trackpad on the Mac laptop. Max has an object called “mousestate” that polls button-status and cursor-position information from the default pointer device. However, it is not designed to take advantage of multitouch data. This is where Fingerpinger comes in. Fingerpinger was able to detect ten independent touch points (perhaps more but I was out of fingers) on the built in trackpad on my MacBook Pro. Which begs the question; how did I take that screenshot?

Ten touchpoints on such a small surface is probably impractical, but I only need two; one for X-Y data and a second one for volume. Most importantly I wanted the audiovisual content to be activated simply by touching the trackpad rather than having to click or hold down a key. Fortunately Fingerpinger has a state value for each touchpoint that I was able to use to activate on touch and release. The latency is hardly noticeable compared to an iPad over WiFi, and I have also simplified my setup meaning I can travel with less equipment and rely on fewer technologies. I still like the idea of using an iPad for multitouch controls, mostly because of the opportunities for visual feedback. But for this particular application Fingerpinger is a great solution.

Xperia Sola with Floating Touch

This is not my usual kind of topic, but I just came across an exciting new development. Sony has introduced the Xperia Sola with what they call floating touch capability. The screen on the device detects the presence of a finger up to 20mm away allowing for mouse-like hovering behaviors. What this means for me is that it would be an easy matter to create a velocity sensitive touch keyboard or set of pads on a device with this feature. Simply measure the time between entering the field and actually touching the device and then apply the number to the amplitude, or any other attribute of the sound. There is a significant amount of potential for expression with this technology. I would love to see this on a tablet and develop an instrument it. How would you like to see floating touch (or something like it) used for music applications?

Notion Ink’s Adam Android OS Tablet

I realize that I am running the risk of turning AudioCookbook into AudioSlateBook with all my tablet articles of late. However, I just have to say that based on the video from this article the Notion Ink Adam is pretty amazing. Notion Ink, based in Hyderabad, India, have designed the device with a 10″ transflective LCD that only uses 200 milliwatts allowing for up to 24 hours of battery life, or more than 10 hours of HD video playback. Another cool feature is a backside trackpad, apparently a first on any device. I like this idea for control when you don’t want to obscure the screen. I find it exciting that new technology is starting to respond to humans in more human ways, like Google’s voice to text in Android OS, and multitouch and accelerometers for gestural input on mobile devices.

The Slate Race is Official

Gizmodo has a couple of interesting articles illustrating how the race to release a multi-touch slate device is heating up. First up is Slate Showdown. In this article specs from a broad collection of upcoming slates have been compiled and compared. Devices running Android and Windows 7 will be the most prevalent competitors to Apple’s iPad.

Another impressive development are new details regarding Notion Ink’s Adam Tablet. Reportedly the Android device will output 1080p video via an HDMI output, has a 10.1″ capacitive touchscreen capable of recognizing six simultaneous points of contact, and supports Flash.

Love or hate the iPad, it has certainly stirred up the pot. Most of these devices were under development long before Apple’s announcement, so what we’re seeing is not necessarily a “jump on the bandwagon” effect, but more of a “hey look, over here, we’re already working on that!” reaction.

The alleged fear of litigation over Apple’s supposed multi-touch patents has seemed to evaporate as more and more devices are announced. And let’s not forget Jazzmutant’s beloved Lemur. Take a look at Peter Kirn’s article What’s Next For Lemur for a lively discussion about the controller, it’s future, and competitive products.

Native Multitouch Support on the Nexus One and Beyond

I successfully installed an official Google Nexus One update to my phone last night and have been giddily pinch zooming to my hearts content ever since.

The previous lack of multitouch support on the N1 led to speculation about Apple patents and possible litigation against American companies including it on their handheld devices, but Google no longer seems worried about it.

It will be interesting to see the reactions to this, but in the meantime I’m feeling pretty glib about my decision to buy the Nexus One.

Of course this doesn’t change the potential of the device for multitouch control or music apps, however, it might attract more customers, and as a result, more developers to the platform.

Furthermore, I have been researching a variety developing stories about multitouch tablet devices to compete with the iPad. MSI is releasing a tablet running Android OS later this year. And Google has released concept photos of a tablet running Chrome OS, that is reported will support multitouch capabilities.

So, for many of us who were disappointed by Apple’s iPad announcement last week, there are a variety of competing and more open devices on the horizon that could very well satisfy some of what we’re dreaming of for open, multitouch, interactive, music devices.