One of the most interesting booths at last week's Macworld Expo was that of Smart Technologies, who were showing off their interactive touch surface systems. These aren't necessarily Mac-related, unfortunately -- the equipment Smart sells is just an interface, or rather a series of interfaces designed to work with touch-based software. But Smart has supported the Mac platform for over 15 years, we were told, and the demo units on the floor were running OS X.
There were a few different concepts up and running (including a table-style touchscreen that used a camera in the table looking up at the touch canvas to optically detect where you were touching), but the most interesting was probably the interactive whiteboard system -- it's a traditional whiteboard with four cameras mounted on each corner facing the board itself, tracking optically on where and when the user is touching the board. The technology works great -- it can tell the difference between a finger, a paintbrush or a full hand swipe, and while Smart's drivers do work with the normal OS X system, they're also building hooks for their technology into various apps -- ArtRage is one that works well with the tech -- and Smart Technologies has their own app called Notebook as well.
Again, all of these things run on almost any platform, but Smart says they're committed to "the Mac customer base." Not only has Apple brought touch interfaces to the forefront with the iPhone and the iPad, but Smart told me that Apple is "now bringing the concept of touch into the [desktop] operating system" as well. Smart's solutions for touch will likely live outside of Apple's own definitions, but it was interesting to see what's possible these days in terms of these interfaces.
We've got a video demo from the show floor, embedded in the rest of this post.