Scisketch - a tabletop collaborative sketching system


SciSketch is a tabletop collaborative sketching system for education. The paper which introduced this system was presented of 8th International Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction (TEI 2014) conference in Munich, Germany.

View the paper

My role

Designer, team of 5.
Advisor: Dr. Ali Mazalek
Synlab, GVU, Georgia Institute of Technology

Tools and technologies

Hardware Hacking, reacTIVision, Tuio Protocol, HTML5/CSS3


Sketching is an effective way to support communication between students and instructors throughout the problem solving process. However, it is hard for them to correct mistakes, share sketches, or save their problem-solving process for later review.

There are interactive whiteboard applications on the market that could be used as alternatives to paper and pens, however they tend to be expensive. 


To build a low-cost and portable interactive tabletop system that allows users to:

- Sketch collaboratively

- Make corrections

- Save key cognitive moves

- Iterate on previous sketches


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We observed the learning behavior in a Biology class with 32 students. Groups of four students shared tables, working in pairs on large pads of paper. Students collaboratively drew diagrams, charts, and wrote equations on the pads to solve problems given by the professor.

Students' sketches on papers were disorganized and not reusable. They did not always use different pen colors to be able to identify their own contributions. If they made a mistake or filled a pad of paper, they simply tore it off and started over on a blank sheet rather than trying to understand where they went wrong. Students also did not keep their sketches for later review or assessment purposes.


We built the system with a Wii Remote, a Projector, IR pens, a portable stand, and a whiteboard.


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IR pens

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Wii Remote

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Portable stand

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We designed and fabricated IR pens with different numbers of IR leds. The Wii Remote can distinguish different pens/users according to the IR dot sizes.

The web based interface design allows users to perform tasks that were found in the case study to be important for sketching and learning collaboratively. These tasks include modifying sketches, archiving, and creating new canvas. In addition, to help users to better indicate individuals’ contribution, a color palette has been added to the interface to allow users to choose different colors for sketching.

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The system can track and distinguish two IR pens using their unipue IR dot sizes. The tracking resolution is 1024*768, and the tracking frame rate is 100 fps.