Post Classifieds

Senior saves scraps for simulation screen

By Lauren Oliver
On April 18, 2014

"There's 104 days of summer vacation, and school comes along just to end it. So the annual problem for our generation is finding a good way to spend it."

One could say the popular Disney Channel "Phineas and Ferb" theme song, which appeals to students trying to find fun things to do during the summer, actually pertains to senior David Gorley, creator of the Multi-touch Table Top.

Gorley's idea was born last summer after he watched a TED Talk by Pranav Mistry, the inventor of the wearable SixthSense device, which facilitates interactions between the real world and the world of data.

Gorley's trackpad-like device, which he keeps in a research lab, was initially made out of trash items that were left over from Miami's construction sites: cardboard, plywood and bricks. The screen itself was made out of a window that was found on the side of the street.

"It's an interactive touch surface that can be controlled by one or multiple users," he said. "Through the interface, they are able to explore virtual simulations that are otherwise restricted by more traditional devices, such as a mouse and keyboard."

After reading several different books, Gorley taught himself the art of construction. Twelve different prototypes later, he shared the idea with a fellow student in his ecology psych lab and was advised to bring it in.

Now that the Multi-touch Table Top has been given funding for further production, it is undergoing major improvements, such as being able to pick up on infrared lighting.

Henry Cook, a graduate student of the psychology department, said he believes this type of device is a commercialized product that has the potential to be sold for around $10,000.

"[However], with a projector, webcam, glass top drafting table, and a few techniques to distribute light, just getting this device to function as a simple touch screen alone was a victory in itself," Cook said.

Although Gorley is a psychology major with an entrepreneurship minor, he has always had a passion for technology.

"I've always been kind of a hacker, and when I was young, I loved taking stuff apart and rebuilding it," he said.

Gorley does not intend to incorporate the device into his post-graduation plans however. It started off as a fun summer project, but nothing more.

"I feel a dissonance where I have things that I'm passionate about and would have no problem putting my blood, sweat, and tears into, " he said. "But, there's also my area of study that I feel very competent with [and] I haven't found an opportunity that overlaps with both. I'm still looking for it."

Cook, however, would love for David to continue with the project, but looks at the bigger picture.

"Our lab's motto is that 'We produce colleagues, not clones,'" he said. "And though this process has crafted a project that Dave could continue as a graduate study, I believe the more important lessons and knowledge gained from his work is something that I always remind him to never lose sight of."

Despite not continuing with the project, the one thing that Gorley wanted to accomplish was doing a research study with the device, but has run out of time. Instead, it will be used in the lab for motor control and team interactions. Nonetheless, he is sad to have to leave it behind.

"I go into the lab and I'm probably there until three of four in the morning, just because it's very easy and I'm very passionate about it," he said. "Every time I go in there, there's always improvements to make and I get very caught up in it because I love it."

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