multi-touch screens [was: Re: [LINK] $100 laptop could sell to public]

Ivan Trundle ivan at
Tue Jan 16 12:06:45 AEDT 2007

On 16/01/2007, at 9:45 AM, Jan Whitaker wrote:

> At 08:34 AM 16/01/2007, Ivan Trundle wrote:
>> That's exactly why I thought it would be a real asset for vision-  
>> impaired: current tactile input devices are not perfect, and
>> generally inflexible in function (other than shift/control/option/alt
>> derivatives).
> Are you saying there is some tactile response within the screen?

No, I was saying that current tactile input devices leave much to be  

> Looks like a flat piece of vinyl to me where the information is  
> just the visual picture or keyboard. If you can't see them, you  
> can't move them.

Why move them? The functionality of multi-touch relies on gestures,  
not precise location. I suggest a look at the iPhone pages on Apple's  
site, or simply hire out Minority Report for some insights.

>> Of course, a voice overlay or some other form of auditory feedback
>> would be required to make multi-touch useful, but I see great
>> potential here. The fact that you don't have to be precise with
>> hitting the right button or key, but rather use gestures, is surely
>> an improvement on multi-button devices (and nondescript in function
>> unless you know where you're at on the keyboard).
> Gestures of what? There has to be a feedback loop of some sort.

I'm not suggesting that Apple's iPhone has the answers, but feedback  
(aural or otherwise) isn't likely to be too much trouble in a multi- 
touch interface. Apple's approach appears to satisfy sighted users  
well, but I'm suggesting that the whole approach could go a lot  
further than this. Keyboards are so inefficient in this regard (and I  
don't fancy carrying one around with me all the time).

> At least with a limited number of keys the user can implement  
> functions.

On a keyboard, yes - so long as a) you've got one with you, and b)  
you know where the keys are when you use them). Consider sign  
language. It's remarkably good at 'implementing functions' (whatever  
that can be defined as), too - and doesn't need a keyboard.

> I don't look at my keyboard (how many keys?) because I'm a touch  
> typist. I just closed y eyes and think I didn't make too many  
> mistakes, but I think I'll open them now.  Gee - only missed the m  
> in my! If this was a flat panel, I'm sure the error rate would have  
> been astounding.
Only if you were attempting to type using a standard keyboard - which  
we all know was developed to slow down typing (or more precisely, to  
stop keys from hitting each other).

>> ps. How much did the people who produced the movie, Minority Report,
>> know of this?
> for a comparison for you.

Yes, I was aware of Jeff Han's work when he developed it, and was  
going to mention it in my last post - thanks for finding the  
reference URL! (I had lost it).

I think that there is tremendous possibilities here, if only because  
it frees the user from having to place keys on a keyboard. And I  
still regard sight as option in this (though at present the focus is  
heavily on sighted users).


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