No doubt about it: touch is coming to more screens near you. But there’s no need to disappoint your current beloved laptop. $200 kits can turn your laptop into a functioning touchscreen.

Now, as I’m working with JazzMutant’s Lemur this week, before you get excited, this is no Lemur – or even anything like your iPhone or iPod touch. Sensitivity and accuracy are workable, but not exceptional, the overlay is pretty simple (as you can see in the video) rather than integrated with the display, and this is single-touch only — not multi-touch. Lastly, on a conventional laptop that isn’t convertible, you may miss the ability to fully extend your laptop perpindicular to your body. (Having the screen be parallel can put your arms in a fatiguing position.)

But that said, there’s a lot of potential once you have the ability to reach over and make quick gestures on a laptop screen that control a set. You might make your own instruments and effects or controller dashboards in a tool like Processing or Reaktor. And at $200, this could be a brilliant way to retrofit a machine and breathe new life into it. There’s support for Mac, Windows, and Linux; you just plug in via USB.

In this case, Sensomusic Usine is perfectly suited to the job, with an interface built just for this purpose. Their Touch Screen Edition earns major kudos for being a full desktop computer music environment built around touch, as covered here previously.

Of course, all of this potential is likely to make you want more sophisticated, multi-touch solutions even more. The outlook is improving. Windows 7 will bring native support for multi-touch gestures – not so much important news in itself so much as a sign that more hardware vendors could add support, ramp up volume and lower prices. HP is already shipping computers (including laptops) with multi-touch.

Also interestingly, the creators of the JazzMutant Lemur multi-touch hardware – specifically designed for music and visuals – have now expanded their mission to targeting general-purpose devices. The new company, Stantum, is showing off fantastic, unique technologies for multi-touch, as seen recently in an Engadget preview. Beautifully designed as the iPhone is, these offer some unique features like intensive accuracy and support for input from objects (like styluses) and not just fingertips. That could mean the Lemur is just the tip of a much bigger iceberg.

Here’s a tantalizing look at the Santum SMK screen working with Max/MSP. Unlike the Lemur, that means direct controlling Max’s widgets, rather than treating the screen like an independent controller.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the simpler, single-touch, cheap solution couldn’t be a great project right now, and a chance to get a leg up on The Future. If anyone tries one, let us know what it’s like.

  • a full desktop computer music environment built around ouch

    A painful typo? ^_^

  • Honestly I've used a Lemur. Yes it's great and very responsive. So is an iPhone (most of the time)

    However having installed a couple of touch panels on my LCDs a year ago. Single touch can get you pretty far, it's like the minimalism of a monome vs. an APC40.

    And the new zoomable GUI in Ableton, makes Live very touch friendly. Of course there is the whole 'new instruments and types of inteaction' with multi-touch… (not even mentioning multi-user fun). But what do you want to do… build GUIs or make music?

  • i'd like Live gui to be as customisable as Usine one…


  • Deaq

    Is this Worth getting? How accurate is it?

  • Hey Peter, you´re working with the Lemur this week? Wow, just drop me a line if you got any questions and try some of my modules, ha ha 😉

    Usine is great! The difference to the Lemur is, that the audio engine is also somehow included…

  • @ronnie I have worked with software built around ouch before, that's for sure. 😉 Happily not this one.

    And yes, I will say, there's a whole lot you can do with touch. You can focus on gestures, for instance, instead of just multi-touch controller manipulation. So I do want to try it.

    I actually think if making UIs were a really fast thing, it could be a nice part of making music. It could be a bit like doing your own notation. And if you focus on function, of course, that's really what working in Reaktor or Max or some custom SuperCollider widgets or what have you is all about.

    @tonvibration: for sure — which are your modules?

  • I tried searching for a touch screen panel with support for Mac OS X, but apparently my Google-fu failed me and I couldn't find anything… Can somebody point me to a relevant website/product?
    Thanks in advance!

  • @ Peter: My modules can be found at User Area of the Jazzmutant Homepage:
    Look for author ""…. I recommend the "Modumat" – a stepmodulation Module. But you can also have a look at the videos, so you can choose which of the modules you´re interested in – all modules are linked at the info of the video. Have fun!

  • Keith Handy

    What was the name of that keyboard-like controller instrument that was a flat surface, polyphonic, and detected glides, forward & backward motion and pressure, etc…. I think my brain filed it away under "you might as well forget the name of it now, because you'll never afford one"… but anyway, maybe a touch screen like this could open the door for a cheap substitute?

  • Keith Handy

    Oh, when I posted that comment, I didn't realize that the $200 kit and the multi-touch were two different things… but yeah, we could always start developing single touch apps in a way that anticipates being scaled up to multitouch, and having an eye towards a polyphonic gliding keyboard instrument would be a cool thing.

  • Keith Handy

    Haaken Continuum. That's what I was trying to think of.

  • Who makes these $200 19" touch screen kits? This is the only one I could find for that size and price range:

    Apparently, touch screens don't lend themselves well to web design.

  • $200 buys you 15" — 19", I don't know. 😉

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  • I was able to build a touch screen for around 40 dollars. I found four-wire single touch screens at a computer recycling store for $1.00 a screen and bought the usb controller for the screen at TVI electronics for 30 dollars. 4-wire resistive touch screens seem to be abundant these days and can be purchased for a low price if you find them. I use them with Ableton and MAX/MSP programs I make and they are very accurate.

  • mhulot

    $67 10 inch touchscreen kit for netbooks…
    I've been real tempted. The installation doesn't look too difficult… but you have to take out every single screw in the thing!

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  • check ebay…

  • thanks to publish my little works !
    many people ask me where i've bought this kit , so here it is :

    ( you can also join the forum to have a little promo code ..;-)

  • theblackpeacock

    got one for 60 bucks shipped on ebay.

    does anyone know of a kit that is pressure sensitive? that would be siiiiiiick

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  • Looks very fantastic thing for me. I will try for my laptop. But can you let me know if this shold chioce a very high qulity laptop.
    electronic gadgets

  • No doubt about it: touch is coming to more screens near you. But there’s no need to disappoint your current beloved laptop. $200 kits can turn your laptop into a functioning touchscreen.

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