BACKGROUND: Entertaible is a tabletop gaming platform that marries traditional multiplayer board and computer games in a uniquely simple and intuitive way. Currently a working concept ý not yet a product on the shelves -- the system boasts a 30-inch horizontal liquid crystal display (LCD), sophisticated touch screen-based multi-object position detection, and all supporting control electronics. Entertaible allows the players to engage in a new class of electronic games that combines the features of computer gaming -- such as dynamic playing fields and gaming levels -- with the social interaction and tangible playing pieces -- such as pawns and dies -- of traditional board games.
ADVANTAGES: Previous attempts to build a multi-user digital table have relied on complex arrangements of overhead cameras and dimmed lighting, which users found made the experience less interesting. The Philips Entertaible is based on a series of infrared LEDs and photodiodes mounted around the perimeter of the LCD screen. It requires no special lighting conditions or other equipment, and is entirely operated by touch alone. It can simultaneously detect dozens of objects, including fingers. It offers the potential of unprecedented levels of user interaction, and could even be extended into other domains, such as an interactive desk where students of colleagues could work on a project collectively around a single workstation.
ABOUT LEDS: LEDs are essentially tiny light bulbs that fit into an electrical circuit, but they are lit solely by the movement of electrons in a semiconducting material. A diode is the simplest semiconductor device. It is made by bonding a section of a positively-charged material to a section of a negatively-charged material with electrodes on each end so that it only conducts electricity (in the form of free-moving electrons) in one direction whenever a voltage is applied to the diode. Electrons move in a series of fixed orbits around the nuclei of atoms. Whenever an electron absorbs extra energy from the added voltage, it jumps to a higher orbital, and when it returns to a lower orbital, it emits the extra energy as a photon -- a particle of light. LEDs are specially constructed to emit a large number of photons, unlike ordinary diodes, in which the semiconductor material absorbs most of the light energy before it can be released. LEDs are also housed in a plastic bulb to concentrate the light in a particular direction.
WHAT ARE LIQUD CRYSTALS? The molecules in liquid crystals resemble rods or plates, and this makes it far more likely that they will align themselves along a preferred direction. But that direction can be manipulated by applying mechanical, magnetic, or electric forces, or by raising or lowering the temperature of the substance. Liquid crystals become solids when they get too cold, and become liquids when they get too hot.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc., contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.