Microsoft Joins Apple In Commercializing Multi-Touch Screens

from the coming-to-a-consumer-near-you dept

Multi-touch technology is going mainstream. Researchers have been talking about the power of multi-touch technology for quite some time. It’s often referred to as “Minority Report” technology, as a multi-touch interface was used by characters in the movie, but it’s been around for much longer. It got another burst of attention last year thanks to Jeff Han’s demo of a multi-touch screen at the TED conference. However, it’s always been in the realm of science fiction or research departments until recently. Apple famously is using a multi-touch interface on the iPhone, and tonight Microsoft announced a multi-touch interface for its new Microsoft Surface products — which are more along the lines of what Jeff Han demonstrated. Basically, it’s large screen-focused systems for interacting with content using a multi-touch interface. It’s not quite down to the consumer level yet, as it appears Microsoft’s first customers are mainly for commercial kiosks. Actually, almost all of the original customers are casinos — with the one exception being T-Mobile, who will use it as a kiosk for providing info on mobile phones. However, what’s pretty clear is that big tech companies are adopting the multi-touch interface in a big way — and that likely means that we’ll start seeing it in many more areas, especially within consumer devices. This doesn’t mean an end to the mouse and keyboard as core input devices — but multi-touch certainly opens up a whole new way of interacting with computing devices that can make them much more useful in ways that simply weren’t possible with just a mouse and keyboard.


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Comments on “Microsoft Joins Apple In Commercializing Multi-Touch Screens”

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24 Comments
Shohat (user link) says:

Written by consumers, not techies

This blog just amazes me when it comes to any issue that is even -slightly- not in the niche of simple web technology and Intellectual property.
Just complete lack of understanding of anything but IP and simplistic web tech.
Both analogue and digital touchscreens (digital touchscreens are just keyboards without keys) can register multiple touches, and I have personally written a program for a touch-screen thermostat that registers multiple touched points simultaneously -years ago- . There is nothing innovative about it, the only reason that these kind of devices are not popular, is the same reason that only special functions use multi-key sequences – it’s not comfortable to the user, and with touch-screens it is also highly inaccurate due to the fact that no person will use two styluses.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Written by consumers, not techies

Both analogue and digital touchscreens (digital touchscreens are just keyboards without keys) can register multiple touches, and I have personally written a program for a touch-screen thermostat that registers multiple touched points simultaneously -years ago-

Hence my saying that it’s not new. What is new, however, is the attempt to bring it to a much more consumer based audience. It really has NOT made it there.

There is nothing innovative about it, the only reason that these kind of devices are not popular, is the same reason that only special functions use multi-key sequences – it’s not comfortable to the user, and with touch-screens it is also highly inaccurate due to the fact that no person will use two styluses.

You seem confused over what *innovation* is. It’s taking the invention (which has been around for a while) and making it *useful*. You’ve proven that it hasn’t been useful in the past. The whole point of this post is that companies like Apple and Microsoft are now innovating by making it useful to the average consumer.

Egat says:

Re: Written by consumers, not techies

There is an incredible amount of innovation in this product. Common resistive touchscreens are incapable of even detecting multiple touches, let alone resolving them. There’s a BIG difference (invention AND innovation) between multi (or even dual) touch detection and resolving the actual location of multiple fingers across a single touch sensitive screen.

The pictures I’ve seen of the MS demo seem to be resolving 8-10 simultaneous touches. That is incredibly innovative. The Jeff Han demo is able to do the same, however his company Perceptive Pixel doesn’t have anything for sale yet.

It’s been a while since you’ve done anything with a touch-screen if you think you need a stylus for accurate input. There are cell phones in Japan which allow the user to draw kanji on their keymat with just a finger. Again, the older resistive technology usually required a stylus to be effective, but newer technologies do not.

Shohat (user link) says:

Re: Re: Written by consumers, not techies

Egat, I will check out the demo. (true, I haven’t done my homework, and it’s been a while… )
Resistive and conductive analogue(not IR or ultrasonic) touchscreens would be painful to program for multiple touches, but if the device is not mobile and we can poll a massive digital matrix to acquire touched surfaces (not wait for an interrupt) on a 40-100ms cycle, it’s just a huge keyboard and you can do whatever you want with it.

Btw – I came off a bit rude in the initial response. I apologize. Happens o_0.

Egat says:

Re: Re:

True, the tactile feedback of pressing a switch cannot be replicated by a smooth surface on a touchscreen, but it is possible to give a user feedback when a key is pressed. It is possible to type surprisingly well on a touch-sensitive keyboard when visual, auditory or even tactile feedback via vibration is provided. The technology is in it’s infancy, but it will replace the keyboard/mouse combo, and it will happen sooner rather than later.

LesterRay says:

I am just a big old dummy, yet technology still facinates me. This one does not. I get absolutely irrate when someone decides they have to touch my screen to point at something, leaving fingerprints that are greasy and very noticeable whether monitor is on or off. Why would I want to clean my screen everytime I use the computer. Ain’t nothing wrong with my mouse…

Bill says:

fingerprints and technology

Fingerprints are really not that big of a deal. Take a look at somebodies Razr screen and you’ll see worse than that. Makeup, body fluids, etc. I know there are screen guards out there but most people just quit whining and wipe it off. I ran a computer lab and dealt with it everyday. There are much worse things…like the dirt on keyboards for one.

At any rate, people that use today’s technology only have a little bit to do with what’s coming further down the line. Don’t tell me about mice…I teach people who can’t trace a line with a lasso around a basic human shape. Mousing technology will be here…but not much longer. Especially now that many first generation computer users are having so many physical problems with their fingers, wrists, elbows, etc. I say, bring on technologies that are more organic.

hazard says:

I’m astounded at the number of people who can’t understand plain English. I’m sorry, Mike, that you are subjected to this level of ignorance. One would think that anybody interested in reading a tech blog would also be able to understand said blog. To the unwashed masses, “innovation” and “invention” are not one and the same. Please pick up a dictionary, and work on your vocabulary. Perhaps you should even consider Word of the Day as a homepage.

txjump says:

would love to see it

i frequently use the mouse and keyboard at the same time. i memorize and use special key combinations, the extra roller on my mouse, and on my laptop i use the touchpad and the touchpad buttons with one hand. my finger navigates and my thumb clicks.

i can imagine that at some point in the future, i might use a multitouch screen. and im sure there are other users out there who would love to try it in new scenarios.

i do agree however with fingerprint issue. but i imagine they might develop screens that have a different finish to help reduce oil transfer. ya just never know.

handtherapist says:

Re: another thing

Can anyone direct me to a user-friendly stylus? The ones that I have seens are too thin and slippery to use repeatedly without risking injury to the basal thumb joint. I am thinking about using it with a small screen for electronic medical records. As for situatuations where you touch the screen and the screen is at the right height for your eyes, you will be setting the user up for all kinds of repetitive trauma injuries. Generally speaking,, if the screen is the right height for the eyes, it is not good for the hands and vice versa.

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