Give your computer the finger: Touch-screen tech arrives

Time to kiss your mouse goodbye?

LucidTouch is particularly useful in two situations, Baudisch says: when multitouch interaction is desired, and when a touch screen is very small, perhaps as small as a watch face. He declined to say when or if LucidTouch might become a product, saying researchers would continue to perfect it while looking for applications such as mobile gaming, art and spreadsheets.

Asked about an extension of LucidTouch from touch to gesture recognition, Baudisch says the Microsoft prototypes already can act on finger gestures, with the system recognizing finger motions as well as positions and understanding the meaning of different numbers of fingers. For example, the motion of one finger is seen as equivalent to a mouse movement, a finger touch is interpreted as a click, and two fingers touching and moving is seen as a scroll command.

Touch technology in its many variations is an idea whose time has come, Baudisch says. "It's been around a long time, but traditionally in niche markets. The technology was more expensive, and there were ergonomic problems," he says. "But it's all kind of coming together right now."

The rise of mobile devices is a big catalyst, he says, with the devices getting smaller and their screens bigger. When a screen covers the entire device, there is no room for conventional buttons, he points out. And that will give impetus to other types of interaction, such as voice, he says.

Touch on a grander scale

But not all the advances in touch technology are going into tiny mobile screens. Microsoft's Surface computer uses a two-way touch screen that is 30 inches across, big enough for several people to sit around and use simultaneously. It is intended to lie flat and present a 360-degree user interface.

Cameras embedded inside Surface sense user input in the form of touch and gestures (finger movements across the screen) and can capture the information needed to identify objects laid on it. This information is shipped to a garden-variety Windows Vista PC for processing and the results returned to Surface by a Digital Light Processing projector. It is a vision-based system, not capacitive or resistive as are many conventional touch devices.

The art of touch

Ico Bukvic, a professor of music technology at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, has taken touch to an extraordinary level, using the Lemur multitouch "control surface" from the French company JazzMutant to compose and perform musical works on the fly, allowing a user to move his hands and fingers to "conduct" the music coming from a computer.

Bukvic works with "interactive multimedia art," which can combine animation, video, recorded and on-the-fly electronic music, and other things in ways that enable the artist, the audience and the computer to work together in a "symbiotic circle," he says. The user can make an artistic presentation by controlling dozens of parameters -- video brightness, virtual camera position, sound pitch and amplitude, mix of instruments and so on -- with all 10 fingers, much as a pianist plays a complex piece while improvising on it.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Gary Anthes

Show Comments

Cool Tech

Crucial Ballistix Elite 32GB Kit (4 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 UDIMM

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Plox Star Wars Death Star Levitating Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy


First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni


For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell


The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi


The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott


My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?