A Touchy Subject: The Present & Future of Multi-touch

A Touchy Subject: The Present & Future of Multi-touch

Laura E. Hall
Dec 15, 2010

After this week's news about Apple's successful multi-touch patent, we became curious about the state of multi-touch devices today and what might loom on the horizon as CES 2011 nears...and even how to DIY your own touchscreen solution.

If you've been in a major airport lately, you've probably seen a touch wall like the one pictured above, and the Apple Magic Mouse is increasingly common. In other words, touchscreens are everywhere these days, and they're becoming integrated into all of our daily lives.

Something we would love to integrate into our daily lives is this concept item, the BendDesk.

Imagine walking into your office, unencumbered. You're not carrying a briefcase or a laptop bag, there's no full inbox on your desk, and your wall isn't covered in sticky note reminders. You set down your coffee cup (even in the future, there is coffee), have a seat in your ergonomic chair, and flip a switch. Your entire desktop surface and the wall in front of you whirs to life.

This is the vision of the Media Computing Group, who conduct research "in Media Computing and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) beyond today's graphical user interface and desktop metaphor."

The BendDesk isn't just a giant iPad (though, how cool would that be?) -- it uses cameras, infared LEDs and projectors to detect hand and finger locations and movement. But as multitouch technologies improve, this would certainly be a direction in which companies will be looking.

Unfortunately the BendDesk isn't available outside of the lab, but if you're determined to integrate multitouch into your workplace, an alternative is the Sony VAIO L Series All-in-One Touchscreen, reviewed and recommended by us earlier this year.

Going between touchscreen and keyboard can be a little dissonant (something we've experienced using the Barnes & Noble Nook), but with some practice the Sony screen could be an invaluable addition to your home office.

Another exciting prospect for integrating touchscreens into the home: the surface of this coffee table, the T3-B from Digital Touch, has a built-in LCD panel that lets you browse the internet or watch TV. And just when you thought multi-touch couldn't be more useful, the future of this technology has appeared on the horizon.

Microsoft has filed a patent for what is called "vibro-tactile displays" – in other words, a touchscreen that you can actually feel, like those used already in some smart phones (aka "haptic feedback").The success of this project may be far away, but it seems to be what all the tech companies are aiming for: a touchy-feely world.

But while you're pondering the huge variety of multi-touch devices, and perhaps waiting for the technology to catch up to the concept -- why not try your hand at creating a multitouch surface of your own?

(Image: Flickr member numstead licensed for use under Creative Commons)

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