Ever feel like you’ve found the seam dividing past and future?

The past: restrictive UI frameworks requiring pages and pages of code to produce dated-look 2D displays. Proprietary software with rigid interfaces. Input bottlenecked through the x and y coordinates of a single mouse pointer.

The future: UIs whipped together graphically or with a few lines of code. 3D mixed with 2D. Open-source, friendly frameworks. Creating your own interface or drawing upon a community of creative software makers. Input that uses multitouch for gestures, collaborative input, manipulation of 2D and 3D space, and … well, just a lot more fun.

There’s no need to wait around for the future. Creative software inventors are building it for themselves. Here are two of the most promising multitouch interface projects I’ve seen in my inbox.

In no time at all, you’ll be painting a cow! (Okay, more on that in a moment…)

Make Max Multitouch

Max Multitouch Framework by composer Mathieu Chamagne makes turning your Max patch into a multitouch interface a breeze. When I first reviewed the Lemur, I was frustrated by the hardware-style abstraction between your software and the interface. Why was I having to go through Max patches painstakingly assigning Lemur controls to Max controls – why not just make the Max controls appear on the multitouch screen? Well, that’s exactly what you get with MMF. Using a set of Max abstractions, all you have to do is build your Presentation Mode style UI and add in the MMF ingredients – it automagically becomes touchable on a variety of displays.

It’s not hard to imagine how great this could be for musicians, especially those who have already been building original sonic creations in Max/MSP. Best of all, you don’t need an expensive, non-portable table with a projector inside, either – commodity hardware works just fine right now.

Requirements :

cycling’74 Max5 (version 5.0.6 required)
– any multitouch interface that sends TUIO messages.

MMF has been tested and works fine with : Stantum SMK-15.4 multitouch screen, HP XT2 tablet pc (windows7 + W2TUIO), Demand Evolution + home made multitouch screen + Reactivision / Tbeta , …

MMF (Max Multitouch Framework) @ Mathieu Chamagne’s Site

Hmmm… apps that send (cough) TUIO, eh? Ah, yes, but that’s why you need companies like Apple to tell you what qualifies as useful in an iPhone app. You see, without Apple’s app review team and their superior wisdom, I might wrongfully assume this sort of app would be something I’d want. Now I know better – thanks! (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Back to the on-topic discussion, this does demonstrate a real advantage of Max: it has its UI absolutely nailed, and the open-source alternative Pd is woefully behind. It also demonstrates that the beauty of Presentation Mode is, by abstracting the UI from the underlying guts, you can consider alternative interfaces. We should see that in Max for Live, as well.

Pd is fantastic in other ways, but if there’s anyone out there who fancies writing a lightweight new front-end, it could use it – perhaps in Python. Which brings us to the next item.

pymt demo reel from Thomas Hansen on Vimeo.

PyMT: Juicy Multitouch, Just a Few Lines o’ Code

PyMT is a glimpse of what future development could look like. While Microsoft putzes around with their Windows-only Surface, PyMT makes multitouch platform agnostic, open, and easy. That frees up artists to dream up creative new ways of applying this interface to expressive musical and visual creations (among others). Instead of reinventing the wheel as far as plumbing, you can focus on the reason for using devices in the first place – your art.

PyMT is profoundly portable, using Python and OpenGL to deliver windowing and multimedia features across platforms. Documentation and code are both under heavy development, but there are already some friendly-looking resources. This is almost enough to shake me from my loyalty to Java, though, in fairness, you can do some of the same things with Java and other tools. What’s most important is that there are libraries that are providing standards, like TUIO, and implementations in cross-platform languages that can be easily developed.

There’s good reason to be bullish on the future of this tech. And if you want to see it happen, don’t wait – you can get involved in the project directly.

PyMT at Google Code

PyMT Project Page

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  • So does anyone make a multitouch kit for your regular monitor? I have a spare 15" lying around…

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  • fractal

    Check Usine !!!

    Thed futur is now and not just prototype useless on live set….

  • Yep, Usine is great. This is by no means a comprehensive list, so … other additions?

    I think it's just, if you like using Python, you'll like PyMT … if you like Max, you'll love that Max framework … you get the idea. Jordan + Owen, the guys using Brick, had that up and running with Processing/Java with no issue (also using the same TUIO protocol PyMT and last week's rejected iPhone app use).

    The real for a lot of people is, what's the ideal hardware? So open to suggestions on that. (The list of gear on that Max page is a good place to start!)

  • "does anyone make a multitouch kit for your regular monitor" If it's an LCD screen, I started developing a framework for doing "multi-object" (like multitouch, in some ways) interaction with a webcam and Processing: http://vimeo.com/3273927

  • it works with osx, right? maybe it's a way to get a cheap lemur style-controller for much cheaper.. awesome

  • Nat

    @tiago morgado
    pyMT works under OSX, I started making lemur-like widgets like the MultiSlider and ButtonMatrix,
    works great !

  • I wonder a little….
    "The future: UIs whipped together graphically or with a few lines of code." – thats what the Lemur actually is. Since 2005.

    And you don´t have to use MAX, Pd, Python or whatever. It is all in one box and no programming knowledge is needed. Do you think that all musicans are necessarily into programming? Well, most of the readers here are…. and things like MAXforLive will push that too. But if you just want to route a fader in Live isn´t it a little bit hard to get into MAX to be able to do that?????
    And what is about your "abstraction between your software and the interface"? If you have build your software in MAX, this will be gone. But if you want to control another VST or Ableton, you still have to build a control surface in MAX, don´t you? So what is the difference?

    I think this nice, but only for a special kind of people who have special programming knowledge in special programms. As a new "touchscreen controls for everyone" or "the seam dividing past and future" it forces the user too much to get deep into a abstract programming process.
    Compared to that the Lemur is plug and play…..

  • Nat

    @tonvibration I think the idea of this post is to present the open source alternatives to the Lemur… The Lemur has been more than covered on this site so it's nice to see there are other options (especially for people that aren't willing to pay the high price of a Lemur…)

  • Nat

    Oh and I wanted to add, while I think the Lemur is a great device, it's still limited, you cannot display what you want, while the widgets are nice, you can't create your own. With Max and pyMT, there are no restrictions, so you can build pretty powerful things…

  • @ nat

    I guess the price of the Lemur is the biggest problem. We all will have one if it will be about 500 euro or so…. On the other hand, a few years ago – before we went digital- we left 1000s of euro/dollar for hardware (My hardware-studio was about 10000). So everything is relative.

    And you are right. The Lemur can only display the controls he know. But to me for building a control surface this never was a problem. I never missed any controltype. And while watching many videos of MAX or Pd applications I never have seen any "new" controltype that is not on the Lemur. So it is more a visual thing in limitation (the shape of the controls) than a shrink of possibilities (the function of the controls), don´t?
    (you can watch some of the controls I´ve build here: http://de.youtube.com/user/tonvibration)

    Well ok – rethink – it would be nice if I could display a waveform… but that is the only limitation I see so far….it migth be, that I´m blind on that spot.

    Sorry for argue. Maybe it is just because I have to justify my decision to buy a Lemur 😉 (wasn´t easy with that price)

    Anyway. Keep that open source thing going! There are endless possibilities….. and it is always nice to see your outcome here. (great times we are living in!)