Apple Big Table Vision Work

Apple Big Table : Vision work for a collaborative work space

Big Table is large multi-user interactive table. It was an investigation into the implications of new technologies, based on real-world user activity, developments in display technology, and customer needs.

Challenge: Working with a small multi disciplinary team including interaction design, engineering and mechanical engineering, I lead a research investigation aimed at helping Apple’s publishing and multimedia markets by providing a larger working context for single and multiple users.

Technically, we looked at the possibilities and issues that arise when pixels become cheap and monitor geometries are no longer constrained by conventional CRT technology.

Commercially, we leveraged the Macintosh advantage inherent in the OS which permits multiple monitors to be linked easily.

Response: By building a working prototype (top image) for a large multi sided table, we were able to test ideas for how the table could support people in real-world activities. Some of the scenarios we prototyped and tested included:

  • Table as Public Work Space: People bring information to a meeting, often on paper, laptops, or mobile devices. A prototype for document sharing between devices and across the tables’ surface was developed. The center picture shows the team passing a document from a hand held device, onto the table surface across to another person at the table.
  • Table as Game Space: A table has a natural advantage because of its large display area as well as being an opportunity for an omni-directional display. To test this out, we devised a game that could be played from any side of the table. A four sided game of Pong was voted our most popular prototype with members of ATG.

Results: Through our explorations into hardware displays, multi user interactive work spaces, and integrated products, we touched the surface of opportunities for Apple’s markets in Multimedia and publishing. Apples’ Advanced Technology Lab was closed whilst the team were building the second generation of Big Table and the work was stopped.

Role: Design Manager

Year: 1997