Microsoft Surface Hub on the Cheap: Touchscreen Coffee Table





Introduction: Microsoft Surface Hub on the Cheap: Touchscreen Coffee Table

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I'd been wanting a touchscreen coffee table for years. When I saw the Microsoft Surface Hub I finally was inspired enough to find a solution to build my own. The big holdup had alway been cost. A large touchscreen is can be pretty cost prohibitive. I wanted a sub $1000 solution with a good sized screen. Salvation came when I found IR touch frames. These relatively inexpensive devices sit on top of any LCD screen and make it a touch screen. They are made up of an array of IR sensors that sense where the IR beams are broken and thus convert the surface to a touchscreen. Installation is pretty easy as well. You just attach the frame with double sided tape to your screen and presto, touchscreen.

You can see more of its use with videos on my CCHobbyFun.

The only thing left is to mount it in a presentable package. Your solution may vary based on whats available. I'll provide recommended places to source materials. The basic list of items is as follows:

- Glass Top Coffee table display case(Sliding drawer helps with installation)

-Large Touchscreen TV (recommend 40" or bigger depending on how big your table will hold"

- 10 Point IR Touch frame sized for your TV

- Small case PC to mount under the table (Recommendation any slim computer with HDMI input will do)

-Wood for a mount to make the IR touch frame flush with the table

- Black Paint to finish the table in one color after construction

- 1/4" Plexiglass sheet to mount the IR touch frame on the Flat Screen

- IR Receiver Transmitter (turns TV on and off when its mounted)

- Decorative trim Screw caps

- Double sided tape

- Plexiglass scoring tool

Step 1: Assemble and Mount the IR Touchframe

Start by assembling the IR Touchframe. It goes together very easily with a screwdriver. The four pieces simply click together and are held in place by the screws. The kit will include double sided tape for mounting. Once the screen is assembled you will need to mount it to the plexiglass that will be mounted on the flatscreen TV.

The frame has a single USB cable that plugs into your computer. At this point you should do a dry run to make sure the frame works by plugging it in. Just sit it on top of your touchscreen to test functionality. The drivers should automatically load in Windows 10. You may need to play with the resolution sittings to make sure your computer displays across the entire screen.

Step 2: Cut and Mount the Plexiglass

The 1/4" plexiglass is placed on top of your flatscreen to protect the LCD from breaking. With the plexiglass in place your screen will be protected for use from kids and other guests.

You will need to measure the length and width of your flatscreen TV. The plexiglass will need to cover the entire top of the frame. You will need a plexiglass scoring tool. Mark the dimensions of your screen on the plexiglass. Use a straight edge and score the lines repeatedly. Then place the scored lines on the edge of a table. Snap the plexiglass along the lines to cut it to size.

Use double sided tape to mount the plexiglass on top of the flatscreen TV.

Step 3: Mount the IR Touch Frame

Now that you have the plexiglass mounted on the touchscreen its time to mount the IR Touchframe to the flatscreen TV. You will also use double sided tape for this as well. Its best to turn the TV on and have the PC plugged into it to see the display. You want to make sure that you have the IR Touchframe mounted so that the entire PC display can be seen. Once you are sure of this press the Touchframe down firmly.

Step 4: Mount TV in Table

This is the part that will take the most time and care. What I am going to provide is basic guidelines. The fine tuning will depend on the size of your table and TV.

You will need to drill a hole in the bottom of the table of sufficient size to allow the TV power cord, IR touchscreen frame USB and the IR remote cable to through the bottom.

Place the TV with the plexiglass and IR Touchframe in the table. Mount the IR transmitter in front of the TVs IR receiver. When the TV is mounted and covered its IR receiver will be covered. The IR transmitter will allow you to power the TV on when it is mounted. Route the cables through the hole.

Then use some 1" or 3/4" wood board to get the top of the IR Touchframe flush with the top of the table. Once you have that you can glue the boards in place.

Then you will likely need 1/4" boards to make a frame around your TV. This frame will fill the gap between the TV and the table to make a flush appearance. You will have to take some careful measurements. Once that you have the pieces cut place the pieces of wood around the TV for a test fit. After I had a good test fit I glued the wood pieces together as a frame.

I then painted the frame and the table to match in black. Mount the IR receiver on the bottom of the table near the edge. Place this in a convenient location. You will point the TV remote at this to power on the TV.

At this point you should a flush mounted touchscreen in black table.

Step 5: Finishing Touches

Plug all the cables into the computer. The small profile PC can be mounted on the bottom of the touchscreen table with velcro. Drill small pilot holes for the decorative caps at each corner of the table. Screw in the caps for effect.

At this point you just need to route the cables for safety and enjoy your new table!



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    26 Discussions

    where did you get the IR touch frames and for how much?

    how much does it cost and how long will it take to build

    This is amazing! How long did it take you to make this (excluding software configuration part)? How is it holding up after about a year? Thank you for inspiring us!


    1 year ago

    wouldn't having the IR screen on top of the plexiglass make it rather easy to damage?

    Would it work if you put the plexiglass over the IR screen?

    3 replies

    The IR beams are creating a 2 dimentional plane that your finger breaks; it translates the point in the break into the location on ths screen. If you covered the IR screen you could never break the IR plane and it would never sense it.

    Yes, the IR frame has to be on top for it to work. The frame is flush with the outside trim. Its not going to get damaged.


    Can't learn if you don't ask!

    This is very cool! Does the I/R frame need to be calibrated for lighting conditions? Would it be able to function in a room that was sunny during the day and dimly lit at night?

    1 reply

    Thanks! I haven't tried it in sunlight but I have seen some on AliExpress that are supposed to work in sunlight. I'm guessing they don't need to be calibrated.

    WOW! I want a Surface Hub and this is making me salivate! This is awesome! I want to make a table just to do it. Thank you for sharing, this is definitely worth the time investment to make.

    I am not sure if i got it straight, the plexi panel goes on top of both, TV and the Touch Frame, after you mount the touch frame? And not on the TV screen ?

    If that is correct, then the touch response isn't affected? Doesn't it lag or something?

    1 reply

    Not quite. Its TV -> Plexiglass -> IR Frame

    The IR Frame doesn't have to be right on top of the TV.

    wow man, its great

    Think I might make one of these, but run linux on it, to make it a media centre and controller :)

    1 reply

    Excellent idea! So many museums and "Discovery Centers" need something like this, especially for use by children. Is there a reason you cannot use the tempered glass that comes with the coffee table instead of 1/4" Plexiglass? Does a "10-point" IR touch frame provide sufficient resolution to use Windows 10 and other programs with smallish icons? What about "swiping" the screen or using two fingers to enlarge a document or image? What do you recommend for venting the installed TV to avoid heat build-up? Could your design be wall-mounted instead? Thank you so much for this excellent Instructable and for answering my questions!

    1 reply

    I used the plexiglass because it was easier to cut than the glass. I originally intended to use the glass but that would have meant putting the IR touchframe on top of the glass. Then I would have to build a wood frame around it to make it flush. The 10 points is just the number of things that the screen can track at once. Best demonstrated by 10 fingers. The resolution depends on the TV and your graphics card. With an HDMI out its been great for me on Windows 10 using tablet mode. I haven't had an issue with heat build up. There is a decent amount of space in most of the tables. However, you could easily cut a hole and add a downward facing fan to vent and not affect the aesthetic. It would definitely work wall mounted. At that point just mount the IR touch frame on top of the TV. Use the plexiglass or glass as needed to protect the LCD screen.

    No problem hope it helps.

    Does a "10-point" IR touch frame provide sufficient resolution to use Windows?

    1 reply

    The 10 points just refers to the number of simultaneous points of contact you have on the screen. Meaning you can have 10 fingers on the screen at once and it will track them all. The frame can handle Windows resolution just fine.

    How does this do when you put an actual cup of coffee or a drink on it and still want to use it?