August 25, 2008 The Apple iPhone has given us a tiny glimpse of the huge potential of multi-touch screens as a next-gen super-interactive computer interface. And while we wait for Microsoft Surface to get its act together as a consumer product, a cheap and simple kit has just been launched that allows open source developers to experiment and build applications in C++ using a full multi-touch screen interface.

The touch screen interface seems ready to step out of obscurity and into the mainstream, thanks in part to the enormous global success of Apple's iPhone and the advanced but still embryonic state of Microsoft's amazing Surface platform. Now that users are beginning to see how easy and interactive touch-screens can be to work with, and multi-touch technology is becoming much more mature, we can expect to see a lot more of it the near future.

But not all multi-touch work is being undertaken on a corporate scale - R&D studio NOR_/D (NORTD) have released a cheap and simple hardware/base software package that gives open source developers all the tools they need to create, run and share their own multitouch applications.

TouchKit Run arrives at your door shipped for US$1580 anywhere in America. It includes the fully assembled, frameless 70cm x 50cm multi-touch screen, a calibrated infra-red camera, and the full base software pack. You'll need a recent model Windows/OSX/Linux PC, a projector, and some ideas on how to mount the whole setup; the camera and projector need to be around 1.1 metres from the screen and stable.

Once it's set up, installed and calibrated, the geek fun begins. Programmers familiar with C++ can get straight in and start experimenting with the range of touch, multitouch and drag input commands to develop their own applications, and there's a developer's forum starting up to share and swap ideas.

Kudos to NORTD for giving the open source community access to this next-gen technology - for a fraction of the US$5-10k pricing expected when Microsoft Surface finally becomes a consumer-level product. Now it's over to to the open source guys to see what they can make of it.

Check out a very basic TouchKit demo in the video here.

TouchKit Version 2.0 from stefanix on Vimeo.