I recently came across some news about multi-touch computer screens, and it got me to thinking about the ways in which small groups could use such a large, touch-sensitive computing interface to do mind mapping. A Google search led me to several videos that show prototype applications of this type of visual mapping technology, circa 2009, but little has happened since then.
Here is a video demonstration of some software called MindFlow that was apparently written as part of a graduate student’s master’s thesis. I have tried to contact the author, but he hasn’t replied to me.
A search of Microsoft Surface, the software giant’s foray into this new, tactile computing paradigm, led to another video, produced by several interns at Intuilab, a French company that has been moving aggressively to develop commercial applications of large-screen multi-touch technology. Their primary focus is on manipulating geographical maps, providing rich shopping experiences and making stunning interactive presentations. The company also builds custom interfaces, which can run on Microsoft Surface and a number of other large, multi-touch devices.
This video was also produced in 2009. I exchanged several e-mails with a sales representative of the company, trying to learn if Intuilab is still developing this mind mapping application. Unfortunately, they’re not doing so. Apparently the market for touch-sensitive mind mapping just isn’t big enough to focus upon. Instead, the company is wisely focusing on applications where it can help merchants and other users to develop immersive experiences that help to drive new revenues.
One final video is a demonstration of version 2.0 of Microsoft Surface, which was premiered at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in January, 2011. Developed in close cooperation with Samsung, it features a new approach to sensing touch and proximity that is simply amazing. Among other things, it lets Surface “see” anything you place upon its surface – which could literally be used to scan or photograph items you want to add to your mind maps.
These videos are compelling – especially the one from Intuilab, which shows several people working a mind map at the same time. This could be an ideal small-group productivity and brainstorming tool.
But with a significant percentage of business people still not aware of the benefits of mind mapping, I think it will be some time before any developer takes a chance on creating a visual mapping tool for this platform – perhaps after the cost of the hardware and software are reduced to the point where it wouldn’t be viewed as an exceptionally risky venture.