The Attigo TouchTable was the outcome of my final year project while studying Innovative Product Design (BSc) at Dundee University.
Attigo was not born out of a problem, but out of blue sky thinking, experimentation, and the meeting of my passions — DJ tools, interaction design, and the emergence of touchscreen technology.
I set out to challenge the status quo of DJ technology, ultimately creating a touch interface that introduced a new way to see and interact with music, while respecting the existing interaction patterns and workflow paradigms of traditional DJ equipment.
After spending some months experimenting with various types of sensors to manipulate, control, and create music — including light sensors to control synthesizers and building custom MIDI controller interfaces — I landed on the idea that gave direction and momentum to the project: touchscreen turntables.
I began ideating further on the interface, playing with different control elements, layouts, and visualizations. A core idea was to utilize a waveform as an interaction point and to display the music — a benefit that touchscreens afforded over traditional DJ hardware.
Convinced by the touch waveform concept, I began prototyping the software. The user interface was built using Adobe Flash, with the audio engine built in Max/MSP, linked together and communicating through FlashServer.
The software was limited to pre-rendered loops and waveform images, but was fully interactive. Users could touch the waveform like they could a vinyl record on a turntable. I built the essential controls found on a turntable or CDJ: start/stop, tempo fader, nudge, reverse, and a browser to select different tracks.
In the early stages of the software prototype development, I ran a series of tests with local DJs to learn about the software interactions, and inform the forthcoming industrial design phase. The tests focused on waveform size and direction, screen size, display orientation and angle.
The test sessions showed that the vertical waveform was the optimal layout in software, because the arm movements and interactions were similar how DJs interact with a record on a turntable. The DJs also preferred a larger portrait orientation at minimum 12" to maximize the interaction area and amount of music that could be visualized. The preferred angle to interact was having the screen tilted towards the DJ when standing above them — this reduced the viewing angle and improved the readability of the UI.
I entered the industrial design phase well informed on the physical requirements for the screen — it was now about defining the form of the hardware to compliment the software. I was searching for a design that let the hardware communicate the motion and flow of the software. I became convinced by the idea of having rounded front and rear faces, creating a shape that almost represented a conveyor belt mechanism.
The final step was bringing all the pieces together and building 2 TouchTable units. I was fortunate enough to have access to a metal workshop where I was able to fabricate 2 casings from aluminium.
The Attigo project wrapped in May 2008, but that wasn't the end — ultimately, this kicked off my career, and set certain innovations in DJ software in motion. The project gained a lot of attention online, I received a lot of positive feedback on the idea, and I received an influx of requests to make the TouchTables a real product. I was never able to do that, but you can see some of the concepts live on through later projects I've worked on.
After sharing a video of the project online, the Attigo project spread around both the music and consumer tech communities quickly, being featured on Engadget, Tech Crunch, and many more. The project even made its way into several magazines, including URB Mag (US), DJ Mag (UK), and Groove Mag (DE).
In late 2013 it was brought to my attention that the DJ Booth in the hit game 'Deus Ex: Human Revolution' featured some familiar equipment. I like to think the Attigo project was the inspiration.