From a technology persepctive, this election might be known as the birth of multi-touch. CNN has been using a multi-touch wall, while MSNBC.com has utilized a multi-touch Microsoft Surface table with an overhead to display what is being moved around. Two different approaches to accomplish the same thing: engage the audience with dynmically changing content scenarios.
Personally speaking, I’ve found CNN’s approach to be more engaging and a better use of the technology: a vertical mult-touch wall that the presenter, John King, interacts with. The audience has the benefit of seeing the map change while also listening and watching the presenter. John King has done a masterful job in his use of the vertical wall, and his use of it comes across as very fluid and natural.
Conversely, MSNBC’s approach uses a flat multi-touch table. The audience sees one of two scenarios at various points: a picture of the presenter, Chuck Todd, manipulating data on a flat table which displays in an insert above the presenter; or a picture of the Todd’s hands moving objects around. The flat table approach is a couple of steps removed from the audience, and in my opinion, less engaging. In addition, Todd also uses some hardware objects to manipulate and change how he is navigating the system. The audience can hear them make noise while they are moved about the Surface. While I applaud MSNBC’s use of the Surface, the strength of Surface is when folks gather around the table themselves, like in a AT&T store, a home, a resturant, etc. Using the Surface as a media presentation tool for television is not nearly as engaging as the vertical wall solution that CNN employs.
All of that said, I think this election cycle has done a good job introducing the audience to multi-touch in some big screen ways, paving a good path for Windows 7.