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RE: MIDIMAN Surface One

I've had a Tactex MTC for a couple years, and agree that it is a 
remarkable technology. I've been using it to provide a "gooey" 
interface to my Max/MSP looper, loosely based on the idea of treating 
a continuous sound as a lump of clay that can be squished and 

The "polyphonic" touch sensitivity inherent in the Smart Fabric 
technology is exciting, but it raises some difficult software 
challenges as well. You can track two fingertips as separate 
pointers, but what if the paths cross? It gets kind of messy. I can 
imagine that Midiman chose to impose a template over the surface to 
avoid some of these issues at first.

On the other hand, the raw data from the fabric is almost like a 
video image of the pressure across the entire surface. You get 
pressure values from a grid of a hundred or so "taxels" upwards of 50 
times a second. So you can sense some very subtle shifts of a palm or 
maybe a foot resting on the surface. I haven't explored this approach 
enough yet but feel like it might lead to a radically new kind of 
controller, particularly appropriate for controlling a large number 
of effects, mixing or synthesis parameters simultaneously.

Does the Thunder, which I believe uses FSR (force-sensitive resistor) 
technology, offer XY position and pressure information from a single 


>At 5:23 PM -0400 10/11/01, CarlJacobson@cakewalk.com wrote:
>>I've seen prototypes of this at Winter and Summer NAMM this year.
>>Absolutely amazing. This is going to be a revolutionary product.
>I don't know if I'd call Surface One "revolutionary" - it's quite 
>similar to the Buchla Thunder - but it will certainly fill an 
>important niche in the real-time controller world. What IS 
>revolutionary is the underlying technology, a fiber optic smart 
>fabric from Tactex, Inc. For the last couple years Tactex have been 
>showing at NAMM. They have their own controller, the MTC Express, 
>and they have OEM deals with other manufacturers. MIDIMAN is the 
>first company whose product I've seen.
>The remarkable thing about the smart fabric is that it can detect 
>multiple points of contact (e.g. several fingers pressing it at 
>different points) and this allows a sort of "polyphonic" performance 
>to be detected and transmitted. There is currently a Max object to 
>facilitate this, when used with the MTC Express.
>It doesn't look to me like the Surface One is particularly designed 
>to exploit this multi-point pressure sensing, since the smart fabric 
>is masked by the the chassis cutouts to channel finger and thumb 
>contact within narrow zones (I believe that "under the hood" it 
>actually IS behaving as a multi-point sensor, since I think there's 
>only one piece of fabric under the whole face plate). However, the 
>name "Surface One" suggests that down the line there may be a 
>"Surface Two."
>Anyway, I'm sure it will be a great product. I have a lot of respect 
>for MIDIMAN as a company, and I think Tactex is a real "comer" as 
>       http://www.tactex.com/technology.html
>       http://www.tactex.com/products.html
>Richard Zvonar, PhD
>(818) 788-2202