All office drones know what it’s like to have a secret game of Solitaire or Minesweeper going on behind their Excel document. This multitouch “Bend Desk” actually looks like an arcade-game cabinet, which means you could play an awesome round of Space Invaders while the boss is at lunch. (It may also be great for getting real work done, but it’s not our fault that the video-game aspect is the coolest part of the demo video.)
Goofing off aside, the Media Computing Group at RWTH Aachen University designed the Bend Desk to address a glaring problem with multi-screen digital workstations: simply moving your stuff from one UI paradigm to the other (for example, from a multitouch surface to a mouse-based vertical screen) can be a real pain. So they figured, why not join all the screens together in one smooth, connected curve? (Using the curve itself to house a Mac OS X-like “Dock” is pretty inspired.)
The team used hacked cameras and LED lights to create the sweeping screen/surface, which has full color and multitouch functionality. You can swipe to pull something down off the huge vertical screen onto the horizontal touch surface, where detailed touch-work is more comfortable — or vice versa. It’s not clear from the demo whether the user must use a touch or gestural interface on the vertical screen, or if more classically comfortable options like a Wacom pen or mouse are available for that orientation as well. But the designers claim to have taken ergonomics into account with the surface as a whole, claiming that it’s rugged enough to set physical documents (or your morning coffee) onto without fear of ruining it.
Here’s what one of the motion-tracking cameras and image projectors hidden inside the cabinet look like:
For people who do intensely visual creative work all day, a Bend Desk could be a godsend. But for the rest of us cubicle drones who are always at risk of getting caught updating our Facebook pages at work, sticking with Command-Tab and a normal screen might be safer.