Pictionaire – A Visual Worksurface

February 23rd, 2010

A collaboration between researchers at UC Berkeley and Microsoft Research, Pictionaire is a tabletop interactive collaboration system that “enables multiple designers to fluidly move imagery from the physical to the digital realm; work with found, drawn and captured imagery; organize items into functional collections; and record meeting histories.” It accomplishes this through us of a rear-projected display surface, gestural touch interactions with the novel addition of a digital camera mounted above the tabletop surface. With it, users can easily move images from printed media or even physical objects back and forth from the tabletop to a stored database of images.

(video, links and observations after the jump.)

Research that aims to explore methods of facilitating group collaborative processes form an entire subset of HCI research, but after watching Pictionaire’s project video, a few features jumped out at me right away. The basic image capture is much like an electronic whiteboard, where users can save and retrieve the contents of a reading surface. However, it’s interesting to see what opportunities open up when the collaboration surface is laid flat and is able to be combined with scanned images or objects.

In my experience in brainstorming or design sessions, oftentimes there is a tactile disconnect between work posted on a wall or corkboard, work on a table and notes or writing on a whiteboard. Pictionaire addresses this disconnect in an interesting way and I would be curious to learn about more specific feedback that the design professionals who were involved in user testing had to say about using the system.

Collaborating on a projected surface and presumably in a darkened environment might pose interesting challenges, I was inspired by the ‘spotlight’ feature shown in the video, and thought it would be interesting to have the capability to create, move around, pinch-zoom and rotate generic white rectangles. These could be used to provide light on printed media or an object, and could also facilitate highlighting specific objects or materials during a session.

The Pictionarie Project Site
has some interesting videos exploring some of formal HCI issues such as the use of contextual interactions.

See Also : BumpTop, Reactable, Microsoft Surface

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