By Dean Stattmann
Reactable is a profound piece of hardware that allows the user to view and interact with data in a new and interesting way. With the use of cameras, sensors and movable objects, Reactable enables us to navigate data intuitively, manipulate it with physical movements and experience it more holistically than ever before. And now, thanks to a group of Interface Design students from the Potsdam University of Applied Sciences, we have Infractor, the interactive software that will bring the Reactable and similar interactive surfaces to life. The current prototype uses The New York Times’ search API to demonstrate the software’s potential and fluid use. Running Infractor on the Reactable, users are able to search, filter and view NYT content, simply by moving a few small objects around on a table.
Multi-touch surfaces vary in form and function, but here’s the general idea of the Reactable: you place blocks or other objects on the surface and then manipulate them. The blocks interact with the surface and with each other, and you can also touch the surface with your fingers. Cameras and sensors track the objects (and fingers), and an application transforms the touches and movements into sound, light and data.
[A]ll available articles are placed as particles on the empty table. Each particle contains information such as the title, the actual text and further media like pictures and videos. This information is at that point not yet visible.
A source object is put in any place on the table in order to bundle the loose information. The object gathers all the particles and displays them in a ray. The particles move randomly inside of this ray. To be able to filter and screen them closer, the ray is split further with the help of prisms.
With controller objects, the prisms are given values that display thematically corresponding articles. Each controller object includes certain categorical values, such as individuals or countries. When such a controller slides close to a prism, a menu appears. By rotating the controller, it is possible to choose different values out of a category, [e.g.,] category: person; value: Obama. The chosen value is assigned to the ray. Another object, the magnet, allows one to see more information or the complete article.