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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  • identicon
    Shohat, 30 May 2007 @ 1:32am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike (profile), 30 May 2007 @ 5:47am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Egat, 30 May 2007 @ 7:11am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Shohat, 30 May 2007 @ 7:46am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Mischa, 31 May 2007 @ 4:54pm

        Re: Re: Written by consumers, not techies

        As far as I can tell, these multi-touch screens are not actually touch sensitive screens. Instead they have cameras behind the screen that see where it is being touched.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 May 2007 @ 4:38am

    if you think multitouch is a big innovation you need to think bigger. it's really not all that great, and keyboard/mouse is superior in so many ways, certainly not replaceable. Most importantly there is no tactile response.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Egat, 30 May 2007 @ 7:14am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 May 2007 @ 5:20am

    Start buying stock in Window cleaner...all those fingerprints are going to be annoying. What am I saying - they already are annoying because people won't quit touching standard screens. ;-)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sanguine Dream, 30 May 2007 @ 5:22am

    New or not

    I get the feeling it will be a long while before this trickles down to average Joe/Jane user.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    LesterRay, 30 May 2007 @ 5:23am

    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...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bill, 30 May 2007 @ 5:57am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    cloksin, 30 May 2007 @ 6:02am

    Touch screen technology is definately not new. Look at restaurants, they have been using touch screen technology for close to 20 years now. Its just a matter of getting that technology into peoples homes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    jon, 30 May 2007 @ 6:11am

    have you seen the videos for it, you can lay a credit card down on the screen and it'll charge it. Not sure if it reads the cards made today or if new cards with wireless something are needed. But to me that is a red flag, microsoft just can't handle security, why would I trust them with my credit card?

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  • identicon
    hazard, 30 May 2007 @ 6:16am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 May 2007 @ 6:27am

    I simply HATE touch screens. My pet peeve is fingerprints on the monitor, lol.

    Touch screens are evil.
    I prefer the mouse and keyboard anyway.

    Although in a commercial setting, it's not a bad idea.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Pamela Sue Zawacki, 20 Sep 2007 @ 5:35pm

      Re: Fingerprints on the Touch screens

      There ---is going to be a better way! How about my Nav-Touch that I got my patent on. I am designing it with a pro-type to manufacture the little fingerprint.
      It stick to the screen but moves around. No more fingerprints!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jerome Lapointe, 30 May 2007 @ 7:32am

    Another needless iPhone plug...
    Seriously this article article oozes of pomaceous fanatism

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    txjump, 30 May 2007 @ 10:57am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 May 2007 @ 3:08pm

    Multi-touch technology is going mainstream.
    Did some patent just recently expire?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    boomhauer (profile), 25 Jun 2007 @ 1:47pm

    what i want...

    ive always thought having two mice hooked up, with two pointers that can grab and stretch stuff etc... would be cool. prolly more practical too. and no finger smudges!

    im thinking some cool games could be based on such.

    remember where you saw it first ;)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    boomhauer (profile), 25 Jun 2007 @ 1:49pm

    another thing

    another thing about touch screens - why do people think it is more ergonomic (than a mouse for example)? have you tried holding your hand(s) suspended over a surface for any amount of time? imagine working like this for a whole day? youll be begging for a mouse.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      handtherapist, 15 Aug 2007 @ 5:53am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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