Collaborative Mind Mapping on Multi-Touch Tables

Supervisors: Denis Lalanne, Rolf Ingold

Student: Karin Altorfer

Project status: Finished

Year: 2007

This report presents a tabletop application that supports collaborative mind mapping. The project first sketches the advantages and drawbacks of the physical and digital worlds for such collaborative tasks and reviews related works. It then investigates the different technologies that could be used to build a prototype. Finally, the TableMind system’s design and implementation are presented, followed by an evaluation aiming at assessing the benefits of multi-user artifacts by comparing our prototype with a similar real world setting.

Today’s common user interfaces are very limited in terms of group collaboration. Keyboard and mouse are restricted to be used by only one person at a time and the desktop screen is too small to be properly seen by more than two people. It is a matter of fact that today’s desktop computers are not appropriate for group collaboration but hindering it.

The method mind mapping has been invented by Tony Buzan [6]. It helps illustrating information graphically, to for example gather ideas, to summarise lectures, to structure thoughts or to plan time schedules or projects. The method can be applied to all kinds of organizational or structural tasks. Mind maps are “landscapes” or “maps of the mind”. They are logical tree structures which are built as follows: The main keyword is placed in the middle of a piece of paper and represents the theme of the map. From this root branches spread out over the paper. Every branch, sub-branch and leaf contains one keyword, whereas words are placed in relation with existing words on branches to finally form a logic “map of the mind” representing the illustrated topic.

This master thesis targets the creation of an application supporting the collaborative creation of mind maps. Elaborating mind maps in a group on paper or in front of a common desktop computer has several drawbacks. In the first case it is difficult to edit, save, duplicate and distribute the created map. In the second case, one user usually takes the leading position of the person in charge of keyboard and mouse. Furthermore, the map is hardly visible to all the members of the group crouching around the display. The goal of this master thesis is to provide an application supporting a small group while creating a mind map. The application described in this report runs on a multi-user DiamondTouch table built by MERL [7]. The evaluation of the constructed system confirms that we managed to build a system close to a natural paper environment while still enjoying the support of information technology.

Document: report.pdf