You probably know about Single-touch screens. If you have ever used a SmartBoard, Tablet PC or any other sort of touch sensitive device you will probably have noticed that you can only have a single point of contact. If you try and draw on a SmartBoard in two places at once, it takes an average of the two locations and draws the line halfway between the two contact points. Getting used to writing on a SmartBoard without touching the screen is a bit disconcerting at first but most people pretty quickly adapt.
Likewise, the reason that you can’t write on a Tablet PC with just your finger and why it requires a stylus pen is that it’s really the only way to give the screen a single contact point, allowing you to interact with the panel using the stylus tip while having it ignore the rest of your hand resting on the screen while you write. Basically, most of the touch devices we are familiar with will tolerate a single point of contact only.
So what we really need to move forward is a multi-touch screen. I was rather impressed when I first saw Steve Jobs introduce the iPhone at the last MacWorld Expo, especially the way he was able to interact with the screen by touching it in more than once place at a time. The shrink and expand gestures for images were particularly fascinating; the way you can resize an image by stretching or pinching it with your thumb and finger. Very cool stuff.
Apparently the multi-touch technology was developed by a guy named Jefferson Y Han. You can see a video of the touch screen technology being used here… watch it all the way through, as it starts off with just arty farty stuff, but gets into some very interesting deveopments with the image handling…
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/89sz8ExZndc" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
Apparently, it seems that Han originally developed the technology and was approached by Apple to go work for them, but he declined. Seems like Apple managed to licence the technology from him though for use in the new iPhone. I don’t really know any further details of that deal and I’d only be speculating if I tried, but it certainly seems an interesting development and one which could bring some cool new ideas to the traditional user interface over the next couple of years.
Touch me there… and there. by Chris Betcher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.