Monday, June 15, 2009

linux multitouch getting somewhere

About two years ago, I dabbled a bit with multitouch. The low-level parts were a hack, a custom kernel driver that spat out a special protocol, the X driver custom-written for this kernel driver and then a new type of events in the X server. The new events were the really interesting bits, but I had to ditch it because of lack of time.

Now, thanks mainly to Henrik Rydberg, we have a multitouch protocol in 2.6.30. The protocol is based on the event protocol that the evdev driver uses and adds the capabilities to track multiple touch points over time.

And now Stephane Chatty from the Interactive Computing Lab at ENAC sent me this link, showing off a few demos that use this new multi-touch API.

The good thing about this? A normal mouse or keyboard event usually goes hardware -> kernel -> X driver -> X server -> toolkit -> application. For multitouch, we now have the low-level bits in places. The demos above are simply missing the X bits in this equation. Bryan Goldstein has taken on the task to resurrect the blob branch mentioned before, so with a bit of luck we can beat that into shape, rebase it to current master and work on completing it. At which point multitouch is fully integrated with the desktop rather than relying on custom hardware-specific hacks at every point in the stack.

Note: don't hold your breath for that to arrive soon, at the moment I'm looking at an 8 months+ timeframe until a release with these features.

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