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Microsoft has released open-source hardware designs and software for a new semi-rigid modular mobile system called SurfaceConstellations.
The designs, developed by engineers at Microsoft Research and University College London, offer a way to tailor multi-screen workspaces using 3D printed brackets, multiple tablets, and ‘link modules’ that coordinate information between the connected devices.
The researchers have demonstrated four different configurations, including a three-tablet ‘bridge’ setup for a two-player game of Scrabble, a three-tablet setup for multiscreen music editing, a six-tablet wall for a trading desk, and a three-tablet plus smartphone setup for a business analytics application.
Each of the configurations is held together by 3D-printed brackets and flexible joint connections supported by weight-balancing structures.
At the heart of the system are the capacitive links the researchers attached to the brackets, which help establish a connection between each device.
“Our approach is that we add a second, conductive material to the 3D-printed brackets, which overlaps with a small section of the device’s touchscreen to be recognized as a unique touchpoint,” the researchers explain.
“Similar to capacitive widgets, our brackets are recognized without the need for a person to touch the conductive material. Our 3D-printed bracket design, which includes an inner core of conductive 3D-print material, overlaps with…