Exploring the Past, Present, and Future of Multi-Touch Technology

Exploring the Past, Present, and Future of Multi-Touch Technologies Surface Computing

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Past February 2006, Jeff Han, then research scientist at New York University’s Courant Institute of
Mathematical Sciences demonstrates multi-touch technologies, which features an intuitive interface-free, touch-responsive computer screen. His screen interacts with a mere touch or application of pressure on the screen. Interaction is simple using fingertips as the vehicle of manipulation. The world soon marvels as viewers watch via the Internet on Technology Entertainment Design (TED.com).

This interface-free technology promises to fuel the future of high tech gadgets. But, what is it really? Formally known as FITR, “Multi-touch sensing through frustrated total internal reflection.” Han explains it as, “A technique familiar to the biometrics community, it acquires true touch information at high spatial and temporal resolutions, and is scalable to very large installations”.

What it does is detect multiple

touches by either fingers or a special gadget known as a stylus on a rear-projection surface. It does not recognize the patterning on camera. Instead, it sends an LED light by way of the acrylic side of the surface. The light is then internally reflected. At the time of Han’s demonstration, it was the most unique two-fold display mechanism, in that when pressure is applied on the surface –the light bounces off the finger or stylus and can be viewed by the camera and onlookers of the screen. The screen image is quickly and easily manipulated as the light yields the reflection on both levels. Not just internally nor only on the display screen.

Since then the same New York University professor Jeff Han launched a company called Perceptive Pixel, which builds six-figure-plus custom multitouch drafting tables and enormous interactive wall displays for large corporations and military situation rooms. I guess he is planning to get paid despite the launch of Bill Gates newly introduced “Surface” computer. Yet, six-figure-plus and interactive wall displays hardly seems to compare to the commercially savvy Microsoft. Although, Han seems very approving of the newest Microsoft computing system and suggests that in order for the full value of multi touch technologies to be embraced by the world and consumers at large, there is a high demand for easy to use human-computer interfaces and room for many more designs.

The new Microsoft Surface computer is expected to become available late 2007 for commercial partnerships at a starting price point of between $5000 and $10,000 per unit. It hardly seems fit for the average computer buyer or user to look forward to acquiring one of their own. However, after the introduction it is hoped that Microsoft will see fit to adapt a smaller version for home users and others.

The Microsoft Research and
Development team appear to have used a unique “Drag and Drop Technology” in addition to the Multi-touch screen surface, which enables the system to easily download and upload via RFID type interaction. An article June 14, 2007 published at Popular Mechanics suggests it is a marvel to watch how easily images, files, and graphics are transferred to and from gadgets. T-Mobile is one of Microsoft Surface newest partnering companies, expects to develop easy to manipulate self-checkout type kiosks for consumers to self-serve digital phone service, and options when Surface is shipped. View the new Microsoft Surface in Action.

Another important plus of the Microsoft system is its self-contained design style, which requires no plugs, USB ports, or otherwise in order to interact with other computing appliances. Instead, the snazzy Drag and Drop is expected to handle any and all tasks thrown its way. Provided you have the proper digits and limbs on your physical body, you should have no problem using such a system as the Surface.

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