Give your computer the finger: Touch-screen tech arrives

Time to kiss your mouse goodbye?

The parameters can be saved for later recreation of the performance in a "library of possible outcomes," Bukvic says. "It's like virtual Play-Doh, where each [finger] inflection affects the actual output -- aural, visual, etc. The composition and the performance become one."

Microsoft is working with several commercial partners, including Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, to introduce Surface, which is due to ship in the spring. It will initially target leisure, entertainment and retail applications, says Mark Bolger, director of marketing for Surface Computing. For example, he says, one could imagine a hotel guest using a "virtual concierge" in a Surface computer in the lobby to manipulate maps, photos, restaurant menus and theater information.

Bolger says Surface has four defining characteristics, traits likely to be seen in many future touch-based devices: direct interaction (no keyboard or mouse), multitouch interface, multiuser input and object recognition -- for example, a waiter places a bottle of wine on Surface and it brings up pictures of the winery.

Just what is meant by "multiuser" is a matter of some disagreement. Adam Bogue, vice president of business development at MERL, says MERL's DiamondTouch Table is the only truly multiuser touch device available because it is the only one that can identify different users who are touching it simultaneously. "Our whole approach has been to support small group collaboration," he says.

With DiamondTouch, users literally become part of the system. Multiple antennas embedded under the surface transmit small radio-frequency signals to users' fingertips. Explains Bogue, "When you touch the table, you are capacitively coupling yourself to the signals, completing a circuit through you and into your chair. Each chair is wired into a separate receiver channel."

MERL made its first DiamondTouch device in 2001 and has since sold more than 100 of them to university labs and to a few companies looking to incorporate the device into their own systems. The organization is now working on applications, the first ones in GIS and CAD, and it sells a kit of software and hardware that companies can use to develop their own applications.

At the end of January, Bogue says, MERL will announce that it is spinning off the DiamondTouch business to an independent company to be called Circle Twelve.

Of course, researchers and inventors have envisioned even larger touch displays, including whole interactive walls. A quick YouTube search for "multitouch wall" shows that a number of these fascinating devices have reached the prototype stage, entrancing multitudes at technology conferences and in other public spaces. You can even buy one such device -- the Interactive Media Wall developed by multitouch innovator Jeff Han and his company Perceptive Pixel Inc. -- for US$100,000 at Neiman Marcus.

But experts predict that this is just the beginning.

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

Computerworld
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?