Multi-touch tables – overall what did the research say?

Reactable_MultitouchThis (now) final post brings together what I have gleaned from reading about multi-touch tables in museum exhibitions.


  • still seen as novel by visitors
  • visitors often don’t notice or know that you can touch and interact with the table – need to alert visitors that it is an interactive, not static display
  • stay time on tables is longer than at other exhibits
  • they are social experiences, especially for families, children usually take control
  • don’t use tables as a “dumping ground” for content that can’t fit on a wall – the table needs to be about interactions with fresh and current content
  • encourage self-directed interaction with many levels of exploration
  • children expect touch screens to react like their familiar technology – things they all use frequently like smart phones and iPads.
  • shared control may lead to frustration – adults and children use tables differently and may interfere with each other’s use
  • used by a wide range of visitors – singes, couples, groups, strangers, varying ages
  • children “dive in” and use straightaway, adults tend to hang back

Practical considerations:

  • tables will be used as an actual table for bags, drinks, books etc, so they must be robust, waterproof and able to withstand rough usage
  • carefully consider the physical environment and atmosphere
  • cleaning must be factored in daily as they make use of hands to manipulate content
  • need adequate circulation space
  • place near a power outlet
  • good Internet connectivity is essential
  • consider lighting
  • staff training is needed in turning on and off and resetting
  • where possible use software that can be updated in-house

Tables provide opportunities for visitor learning through:

  • visitors observing others
  • layered information encouraging deep exploration
  • shared learning strategies – sharing points of view, reading aloud, resizing material
  • enabling more interactive comments leading to higher levels of reasoning
  • creating a shared understanding of the tasks more quickly
  • enlarging, moving and re-sizing images which assists in shared attention and shared understanding


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