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Making Fingers Work With Touch Screens 111

Posted by kdawson
from the seeing-the-spot dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A paper was recently published about Shift at the Computer Human Interaction Conference earlier this month. The authors (Daniel Vogel, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Toronto and Patrick Baudisch, a research scientist at Microsoft Research) developed the technology to solve several problems with mobile-phone touch screens. Most such screens are designed to be operated with a stylus; when touched with a finger the UI doesn't work so well. They also created a short video with a demonstration of how Shift works. Shift builds on an existing technology known as Offset Cursor, which displays a cursor just above the spot a user touches on the screen. That allows a user to place their finger below the item they wish to choose so that they can see the item, rather than hiding it with their finger."
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Making Fingers Work With Touch Screens

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  • Then you'll be able to use your stylus-like fingernails, thus solving any such problems! :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nostriluu (138310)
      You laugh, but I used a fingernail with my Fujitsu B series notebook and SE P800.. just curve your pointing finger and use the nail.. it works quite well - accurate, and no finger grease. So I don't see what the big deal is.
    • Touchscreens = GorillaArm

      Touchscreen technology was proved faulty for continuous use many years ago ....

      "An ergonomic problem of touchscreens is their stress on human fingers when used for more than a few minutes at a time, since significant pressure is required and the screen is non-flexible. The resulting condition is labeled "gorilla arm" because it makes the user feel clumsy. This can be alleviated with the use of a pen or other device to add leverage"

      • by gogodidi (885953)
        "An ergonomic problem of guitars (or any other stringed instrument) is their stress on human fingers when used for more than a few minutes at a time, since significant pressure is required and the fretboard is non-flexible. The resulting condition is labeled "weakness" because it makes the user feel clumsy. This can be alleviated through practice." Thought maybe that would be a good analogy. Although i agree with the fact that an input device shouldn't require a whole lot of practice or effort to use, most
    • I'm always amazed that the people who design GUI user interfaces don't study anatomy or even have a basic understanding of the relationship between the screen elements and the body activities needed to interact with them.
      The most glaring example of this is ever-present and manifestly stupid Windows message box that appears right in the center of the screen at the wrong time and demands that you reposition the mouse pointer on it and click before continuing with your work. Inevitably the movem
      • Erm, the point of those dialogs is that it would catch your attention such that you'll pause and READ THE ERROR MESSAGE.

        As such, they are designed correctly since the object to AVOID a reflex click.
  • FingLonger (Score:4, Funny)

    by Timesprout (579035) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @10:47AM (#19161813)
    The prof already has this one sorted.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by andphi (899406)
      But he never actually invented it. He merely wondered what might happen if he invented it.
      • by Kijori (897770)
        He uses it in a later episode though, so I assume the what-if machine inspired him to invent it.
        • This still doesn't solve the being able to see the cursor problem
          The FingLonger just lets you hit the "Cancel or Allow" from another room.
          • by Kijori (897770)
            I didn't suggest it, I just pointed out a feature of a cartoon. The finglonger's not real. And even if it were, you'd still be replying to the wrong comment.
  • Counterintuitive (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MankyD (567984) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @10:48AM (#19161823) Homepage
    So if I see a button the screen, I don't press the button; I press below the button. That seems rather counterintuitive, no? And how do I push stuff at the bottom of the screen?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by excelsior_gr (969383)

      Not exactly. You use your finger to browse on the screen. Just above your finger you will see the cursor. The article says that lifting your finger from the screen selects the item (even more counter-intuitive in my opinion). At least, it says that the cursor will be displayed only when necessary, i.e. if the item is big enough this function will not be activated.

      • by MankyD (567984)

        The article says that lifting your finger from the screen selects the item (even more counter-intuitive in my opinion).

        Yeah, I agree - this implies a dragging type motion is taking place. When I want to push a single button, I don't want to have to touch the screen, locate this little cursor with my eye, drag it into place, and then lift. I just want to push the button :P

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by kat_skan (5219)

          I think if I was going to do it, I'd make the buttons larger and align the label along the top. Your thumb wouldn't obscure the label, and you'd still be pressing the button instead of someplace vaguely in the vicinity of the button.

          For widgets that are more information-dense--say a list of contacts in your address book--split the list into two columns and make the list items twice as tall.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by grumbel (592662)
          You can do exactly that with Shift, watching the video (linked in the article) helps to understand how it actually works.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by grumbel (592662)

        The article says that lifting your finger from the screen selects the item (even more counter-intuitive in my opinion).

        Thats not counter-intuitive, thats exactly how basically *every* GUI today works. When you press a button the action takes place not on mouse-button-down event, but on mouse-button-up. Shift uses the time in between down and up to present the user with a little zoomed view of what is under his finger so that he can fine tune his selection. Looks pretty intuitive and easy to understand for

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jrumney (197329)
      Its how the ticket machines at my local train station were working the other day. I almost bought a First Class single instead of Standard return, luckily I noticed that the price was slightly out before I put my card in, then figured out that there was a vertical offset on the touchscreen. A cursor might have helped alert me earlier, but its still counter intuitive.
      • If the touchscreen is not level with your eyeline, you will get an offset amount.
        I only notice it when I rotate my tablet round and have to adjust the offsets slightly.

        I can imagine overly tall/short people with a badly placed touchscreen ending up stooping or on tippytoes to balance out the effect.
        • by jrumney (197329)

          If the touchscreen is not level with your eyeline, you will get an offset amount.

          I've noticed that with some ATMs that still use CRT displays and place the touchscreen on a glass/plastic pane some distance from the screen. But these are new ticket machines with LCD touchscreens, and very little parallax effect normally. The machine was out of order the following day, so I think the touchscreen had slipped down half an inch or so.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by inviolet (797804)

      FTFS:

      Shift builds on an existing technology known as Offset Cursor, which displays a cursor just above the spot a user touches on the screen. That allows a user to place their finger below the item they wish to choose so that they can see the item, rather than hiding it with their finger.

      Am I the only one who read this and thought -- with a sigh -- that there was surely already an odious patent application filed for it?

      "Method and Apparatus for Displaying a Cursor Below the Designated Location" -- with th

      • No, you're not. I wasn't thinking a coded method, just a calibration method, however. I would hate to break this poor guys patent any time I mis-calibrated my Nintendo DS. Hopefully he'd be nice enough to not pursue a DMCA violation on his patent.

        "He has 'Hacked' the firmware on his console to allow his touchscreen to perform tasks that infringe on my patent!"
    • Re:Counterintuitive (Score:4, Informative)

      by pruss (246395) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @11:09AM (#19162227) Homepage
      That is how Offset Cursor works. If you read the article, Shift is much better--it targets the area under the finger, but shows a circular callout of that area above the finger so it is not occluded. A variant even magnifies the area for higher precision. It actually looks really nice from the paper. I'd be tempted to make a PalmOS implementation, but I suspect it's being patented.

      Now if only they could solve the problem of screens getting smudged by fingers. :-)
      • Now if only they could solve the problem of screens getting smudged by fingers. :-)
        Indeed. I don't really have a problem "tapping" on my iPAQ with my finger (more the nail), but I hate the smudges.
      • Anti-Smudging, or rather quick smudge removal technology has already been patented.

        I read a paper on LTWS (Lick Tongue Wipe Shirt)
        • by Kijori (897770)
          How do you lick your tongue? And why would you wipe your shirt?
          • How do you lick your tongue? And why would you wipe your shirt?

            It's obviously a machine translation from some asian language, probably Chinese. This arrangement of the four characters, Lick Tongue Wipe Shirt, actually means "screen clearing by licking your shirt then wiping the screen with the wet area". Not to be confused with Lick Tongue Wipe Shorts... which means something entirely different.

            This is why these languages make zero sense to many Westerners, and why they often end up five dollah poorer when they visit.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by pruss (246395)
        I emailed one of the researchers. Yes, the technology is being patented, unsurprisingly.
        • A non-obvious patent granted to an inventor in order to allow them a short-term monopoly in exchange for releasing the invention to the common domain at the end of the patent cycle, thus encouraging the inventor to release the idea with the understanding they'll be able to take full financial advantage of it?

          This is BS! When oh when are they going to fix the system!
    • Did ANYONE Watch the fing video.

      When you press a big button, the button is pressed, letting go confirms it, this is true of existing interfaces. When you press a small button a copy of what is under your finger is displayed in a circular window above or to the left or right (if your on an edge above won't always work) You can see what your finger is pressing exactly in this window, and then you can let go to confirm.
      • by MankyD (567984)
        You're right. It took awhile for it for me to download (slow connection.) It appears as though you can use the interface like a normal touch screen but, if you want to click in a very controlled manner, you press, hold, and wait for a small, circular window to pop up showing you what your're trying to press. You can use that to make sure you're getting the exact region you want. Very impressive, actually.
    • by roaddemon (666475)
      Ever used a mouse? How counterintuitive is it to push a button on your desk while the cursor is 18" away? Seems to work fine for most people.
  • by spocksbrain (1097145) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @10:48AM (#19161831)
    "The fingers you have used to dial are too fat. To obtain a special dialing wand, please mash the keypad with your palm now."
    • "They call them 'fingers' but I never see them fing. Woah, there they go."
    • "If you know the name of the felony being committed, press one. To choose from a list of felonies, press two. If you are being murdered or calling from a non-finger enabled phone, please stay on the line."

      ...fumbles with newfangled phone UI...

      "You have selected regicide. If you know the name of the king or queen being murdered, press one."

  • by u-bend (1095729) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @10:48AM (#19161837) Homepage Journal
    Ever since it was announced, I've been wondering how well its touch screen is actually going to perform in everyday use? Anyone had an opportunity to play with one of the demos for an extended period of time?
    • by furball (2853)
      Ask a waitress. Waiting staff at restaurants and country clubs have been using touch screen systems since the early 90's.

      I know because I used to sell those systems to them. They work just fine.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by viewtouch (1479)
        Wait staff at restaurants, bars and clubs have been using graphical touch screen systems since 1985.

        I know because I created the first such system.
        • by furball (2853)
          Which touch detection mechanic were you using originally for them?
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by viewtouch (1479)
            I began experimenting with Infrared in 81-82, then resistive in 82-83 and capacitance in 84-85 before settling on that. In 86 I did the Comdex show and received two shoe boxes filled with business cards from people who wanted more information.

            Building touchscreen systems was not easy or cheap in those days. Today we don't even need computers to put touchscreens in front of users - just a display with a wireless network connection.
  • So using an offset is going to help people who can't seem to hit the target in the first place?
    • by grumbel (592662)
      Shift doesn't offset the cursor, you click where you click, it however allows you to fine tune the cursor position under your finger by showing the content under yoru finger in a small windows above your finger. The video linked in the article makes this rather clear.
  • by shadow349 (1034412) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @10:49AM (#19161863)
    That allows a user to place their finger below the item they wish to choose so that they can see the item, rather than hiding it with their finger

    Just like when I use a telephone, I hit the buttons next to the number I am looking to dial and when I park my car, I park next to the spot I want.
    • by figleaf (672550)
      You seem have misunderstood.
      Notice he talks about small points. Not large areas like big buttons.
    • DO you also take you mouse and put it over the cursor on your screen "just to be sure that it's hitting the right link" or like the rest of us, do you move it around on your desk... offset by several dimensions from the virtual pointer on your screen. Are you saying that the mouse device is unintuitive?

    • by iminplaya (723125)
      when I park my car, I park next to the spot I want.

      What's wrong with that? This way you don't have to lift your car up to see what(or who) you smashed.
  • Yeah, yeah, grooming experts tell you to trim your fingernails but why is it I always run into a problem where I need them right after I trim them? Yeah, yeah, that's what pocket knives are for. Anyways, with a small touchscreen like a Palm pilot, if you have just a wee bit of fingernail, you can poke the screen with that rather than pull out the stylus. The trick is to have just enough nail that you can do this but not so much that you look like Freddy Krueger. I suppose another way around it is to put a p
  • I've had a touchscreen in my car for years now for my PC, and I quickly learned to adjust some of my habits to it. Specifically, I:
    1. Use my fingernails. No fancy glue on stylus or anything, but finger nails don't leave oily traces unless I've just finished gutting a whale by hand or something.
    2. I do it palm facing towards me, pointed up. This keeps the contact area visible the whole time. If the computer were british, it might look like I was flipping it off, sure, but it works well.

    When you have limi
  • Not how it works (Score:4, Informative)

    by Fnord666 (889225) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @10:55AM (#19161969) Journal
    From TFS:

    Shift builds on an existing technology known as Offset Cursor, which displays a cursor just above the spot a user touches on the screen. That allows a user to place their finger below the item they wish to choose so that they can see the item, rather than hiding it with their finger."
    from TFA:

    The Microsoft Research project, called Shift, automatically displays an image on the screen above where users place their finger showing the area under the users' finger. The image is circular and includes a small X. By toggling the tip of the finger, users can move the X to place it on top of the item they want to choose. Lifting the finger from the screen selects the item.
    You still click where you point with your finger. The system just shows you a small "virtual" image of what is under your finger at the moment and also a virtual cursor for where your click will be registered. The virtual cursor allows for more fine grained control.
    • by Tacvek (948259)
      Offset cursor works in the way described in TFS.

      The much smarter "SHIFT" technology shows a circle near (presumably normally above) showing a view of exactly what is being targeted. The view may optionally be magnified (depends on implementation and possibly user options). That is the tech TFA is describing.

      Both are correct, but as usual, TFS is misleading.

  • It'll throw me off (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @10:56AM (#19161983)
    Humans didn't grow up pressing below what they want. When I go to dial my desk phone I don't press just below the buttons. It's assumed in my brain that I will be covering up what I want. The problem I see is the size of a stylus vs size of a finger. If you cram buttons close together my finger won't be able to resolve which one I'm actually trying to press. But the same is true of real buttons (Simpsons and the dialing wand).

    Not that we can't learn. Just as spear fishers learned to take into account the refractive index of water when fishing. I'm sure it took a while, but after the learning period I'm sure it's second nature to aim X below what I want to kill.

    I'm interested in seeing how Apple solved this problem with the iPhone
    • by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @10:59AM (#19162051)
      I'm interested in seeing how Apple solved this problem with the iPhone

      It's amazing how much simpler everything is with only one button...
    • by amper (33785) *
      I'm interested in seeing how Apple solved this problem with the iPhone

      It's simple, really, which is why Apple is of course the only company that gets it. Make the buttons fit the finger.

      http://www.apple.com/iphone [apple.com]
    • by gregoryb (306233)

      I'm interested in seeing how Apple solved this problem with the iPhone

      This might not be used on the iPhone, but I'm sure we'll see this eventually... Apple's invisible interface [core77.com].

    • to dip the end of the spear under water to cancel that refractive difference.

      But then what do I know? I've only watched a few seasons of survivor.
    • > Humans didn't grow up pressing below what they want.

      Yet we have learned to deal with a mouse, with a mousepad 10 inches away from the cursor that it is controlling (admittedly not an easy task for children to learn).

      Fine grained control of a cursor using a finger on a screen is more to do with consistency (precision) than with the absolute relationship (accuracy) between the cursor and the finger.
  • or you could... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by brunascle (994197) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @11:04AM (#19162149)
    tip the screen around [technologyreview.com] all willy-nilly like. it'd be fun for emulating those old tilt-the-thingy-and-get-the-ball-in-the-whole games.
  • If so, keep your existing touch-screen-enabled gadgets calibrated, else...
  • by Dan East (318230) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @11:13AM (#19162283) Homepage Journal
    This is interesting, because I've been working on finger touch based UIs of late. I've come to a few conclusions:

    The touchscreen for many devices is physically designed for use with a stylus. They require quite a bit of force to register, and it is difficult to apply that much pressure with a finger because of the amount of surface area contacted. The DELL Axim touchscreens work particularly well with finger touch, while others, like the Asus a716, do not.

    GUI Design is critical. Microsoft's history with mobile devices has been to make them as much like Windows 95 (and up) as possible. Windows CE 1.0 was exactly like Windows 95. Although with Pocket PC (CE 3.0) they tried to follow Palm's dominant (at that time) lead, and simplify the GUI, it is still most conducive to mouse / stylus input. The iPhone is a perfect example of how to design a GUI for finger based input. The multi-touch hardware capability is not even an issue at this point - pure software design is responsible for the bulk of the usability.

    Along those lines, Microsoft prefers static dialogs that show as much information at once as possible, requiring small, desktop-like controls that demand precision stylus input. The iPhone is dynamic, scrolling in new options as the user make selections. Thus they have room for large, finger-sized buttons, because the display changes constantly. Many controls, like scrollbars, are unnecessary because entire display areas (like lists) can simply be dragged and tossed, which is the most natural behavior in the first place. The scrollbar then becomes only a visual indicator, which can even be hidden when the user is not interacting with the screen.

    I've put together some code that behaves like the iPhone's drag interface, both in 2D for rectangular regions, and 1D for lists. It works really well on the Axim, again, because its touchscreen is nice and sensitive, even when retrofitted to existing Windows List controls. So it obviously is not a matter of hardware, but GUI design, that Windows Mobile isn't conducive to touch input.

    So basically, this article is not stating the real problem, which is that MS is completely missing the mark with the fundamentals of their mobile GUI. But instead it offers a clumsy hack to work around an improperly designed UI. The ironic thing is Shift's Offset Cursor doesn't work at the bottom of the screen. That area is the most important for user interaction, because controls are strategically placed their so the user's fingers (hand / stylus) conceal as little extraneous area of the display as possible. That is why onscreen keyboards are always at the bottom, which makes them inaccessible to this Shift hack. The article fails to mention that little detail too.

    Dan East
    • ... please mash the keyboard with your hand.

      I am a tech writer and deal with GUIs every day.
      I agree on your points about not working at the bottom of the screen being a big issue. Not only are controls placed so you can see the screen when using them, on a cell phone your thumbs/fingers are easier to use with controls placed closer to the keypad as your hand is holding the center or center-bottom of the phone. I'm surprised that the target can't (at least not yet) flip its targeted zone based on the area of
    • by OzRoy (602691)
      Doesn't anyone read the article any more? Shift doesn't use an Offset Cursor. Your finger is the cursor, shift just displays the area of the screen under it so you can do precision 'mouse-like' functions with your finger. This solves the problem of not being able to access the area at the bottom of the screen.

      Now you may say that this just solves a problem caused by bad UI, but there will always be a need for precision actions, like highlighting text.
  • my windows start button won't work!!
  • ... with Windows Mobile 6:

    User: (Touches 4 key)
    Phone: You have touched the 4 key. Allow?
    User: (presses yes button)
    Phone: You have touched the yes button. Allow?
    User: (presses yes button)
    Phone: You originally pressed the 4 key. Were you pressing the 4 key, or using our new counter-intuitive software that would allow you to really be pressing the 1 key?
    User: (touches the 4 key in response)
    Phone: You have touched the 4 key again. Allow?
    User: (presses yes button)
    Phone: Please stop picking on the 4
    • by Tacvek (948259)
      While amusing!

      Thankfully WM6 ("Crossbow") is mostly a set of graphical improvements on WM5, with a few programs redesigned for nicer interface etc. Overall, the difference between WM5 AKU 3.5 and WM 6 is AFAICT much smaller than the difference between WM5 AKU 1.0 and WM5 AKU 3.5.

      I mean the big changes are:
      Impoved Outlook Mobile allowing HTML formated mail, and in the caledar section, an new "calandar ribbon" interface
      Replacing the integrated "MSN" suite with a "Windows Live" suite. (Noticeably improv

  • Shouldn't it be "Making Touch Screens Work With Fingers"?

    The headline makes it sound like they've figured out how to make those pesky humans more compatible with the touch screen technology. Granted, most handheld operating systems involve the computer and the user meeting each other halfway, but this headline made me envision plastic surgery to make fingers more pointy...

    • I believe that the title is correct and appropriate because
      Microsoft's generic approach is to leave no options to customers other than to do it the Microsoft
      way with Microsoft proprietary solutions without regard for the
      relative quality of the Microsoft solution

      The fully expanded version of the title would be Making Fingers Work With Microsft-Touch-Screen (TM).
      Since the likely presumption is that all are most touch screens will be driven by Microsoft
      software the original title works well.
      The word combinatio
    • by ranjix (892606)
      yeah, but then you miss on the soviet russia joke opportunity. I'm afraid even my comment will generate a ton of soviet russia jokes.. I'm afraid even the comment to the comment will generate...
    • by Romwell (873455)
      Mod parent up, that's EXACTLY how I interpreted the headline. Initial thoughts involved dipping fingers in hot molten plastic to make them more 'stylus-like'.
  • That allows a user to place their finger below the item they wish to choose so that they can see the item, rather than hiding it with their finger"
    Would the user not have already decided to press whichever button? When pressing something, I don't need to see what I am pressing as I have already decided what to press. The only thing setting it so a user must press below a button will do is create confusion.
  • Here is the full source code dump for the implementation of the "Offset Cursor Technology":


    mousePos.setY(mousePos.y()-20);


    If you are planning to use this technology in your own software, please contact the Microsoft Research to purchase the appropriate licenses.

    • by powermacx (887715)
      Only if you want the cursor to fly to the top of the screen every time you lift your finger...
  • This was an article on finding a way to work with convention show style touch screens. My fingers, for whatever reason, don't seem to always register as a touch on touch screens. I'm not sure if my skin is too thin, or not conductive enough (or too much?). A few of my coworkers have the same problem. Does anyone else have this problem, and have they found some sort of device to counter it? Pen tops, and Stylus' don't react with this particular sort of screen, unfortunately.
    • by viewtouch (1479)
      This difficulty is caused by the fact that you are using capacitance touchscreens and your hand is dead. Well, actually, the capacitance characteristic of your finger is significantly outside the range of the firmware setting in the controller that you are not creating enough 'disturbance' in the conductive current flowing across the screen.

      Surface acoustic wave touchscreens would not have this failing. The latest capacitive touchscreen controllers would probably not have this problem. Resistive touchscr
      • by DeadCatX2 (950953)
        One way to solve the inadequacy of your finger's capacitance 'signature' is to grab on to a wet naked woman with your other arm.

        Where exactly are you grabbing this "wet naked woman"?

        For that matter, where do you expect a slashdotter to find one?
        • No, no, it's perfectly slashdot. The people that follow his advice will have a wet naked woman conveniently at hand, yet concentrate entirely on making the touchscreen work.
  • Between calibration errors and finger size I've just learnt what size objects are worth fingering on my Toughbook screen. Only when dragging does the hand remain in the way - I typically use my nail with my palm facing me for precise placement in Visio or selection of text. If I have to take my hand off the keyboard then a quick tap on the screen can get the pointer within a few pixels. Precision on a small screen is no different - just less useful in general. Adaptive software seems a better avenue - thin
  • I thought they were talking about chocolate fingers :(
  • Backup _all_ your data, then do a hard reset. When the screen calibration drill appears, make sure you tap some distance _below_ the markers. Next you have time to practice the new input method with the cut'n'paste drill and while you install <insert your favorite mouse cursor drawing utility>. Viola!
    • by initialE (758110)
      You _do_ know that you can recalibrate your screen without doing a hard reset don't you?
  • In most touch screens, the best way to use it is to press with your fingernails. Seriously. Lightly press with your fingernails, and the response will be at least 90% dead on. I'm not talking "Lee Press On Nails" length nails, just enough to protrude at least a half millimeter beyond the end of your finger. The keratin is an excellent conductor, and works as well as a PDA stylus in many cases.

    Ironic that the most common biological factor that could aid in an electronic interface is the one most people cut t
    • It depends on what the touchscreen technology is, to some extent. I would recommend against using fingernails. What I would recommend is that when you put your finger on the display, make your touch something that is not so much of a 'poke' as a 'touch'. Seriously, don't poke and get your finger off as fast as you can - make a gentle but slightly longer lasting touch to the display and it will work much better. A touch is actually an average of multiple readings taken when you touch the screen. The sli
    • There's practical issues as well. For instance, if you let your nails go, typing gets weird. You have to move your wrists back and down, putting stress on the wrists to compensate for the nails, or you have to accept that you won't have soft fingertips hitting the keys. This gets old really quick.

      Plus, if you do anything useful with your hands, you're gonna get gunk under there. Which you have to clean out unless you're a gross slob. And the longer the nails are, the harder that is.
  • "Making Touchscreens Work With Fingers"?

    I'd hate to think what kinds of surgery our digits would require to make them as effective as a regular stylus...
  • A finger-driven user interface should require, as a core feature, that the user interface did not present to the user buttons or other selectable entities that are too small to mash with a finger.

    Once you've designed with that requirement in mind, the need for this software becomes rather moot.

    Now maybe for something like an on-screen keyboard you have an issue, because you can't fit many finger-pressable keys in that. Apple's iPhone however enlarges the key as you press it, and this solution would slow you
  • This is sad. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by viewtouch (1479) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @01:23PM (#19164883) Homepage Journal
    The application for a patent on this saddens me. I have had thousands of conversations in the past 25 years during which I have freely discussed all kinds of touchscreen GUI issues. Some of the conversations were about touchscreen GUI effects that I had created and some of them were about effects that would obviously make the operation of the touchscreen easier.

    I had many conversations over the years dealing with this specific issue, of using the magnifying glass effect on the GUI to display the area occluded by the finger. I didn't implement this effect because I have not been doing much work on displays with a diagonal measurement of 2 to 3 inches, but it is an effect that was often the subject of conversations I've had with many people and even in some lectures I've given.

    I'm sad to see that somebody has now decided to patent something that has been a common topic of touchscreen GUI conversations for many years. The patent can hardly be considered non-obvious. It could well be that the two people involved here, one a student, one a microsoft employee, are simply ignorant of the basic design issues of graphical touchscreen GUI's.

    I would go so far as to say that this patent application is morally reprehensible, right up there in league with patents on seeds that have been around since the dawn of time.
    • I know that with a 4 digit UID this can't be the case, but I'm just compelled to say...

      You must be new here.

      And, yes, it is pretty stupid - unless the inventor is (a) young and (b) has had no contact with other experts in the field, in which case he may think it quite novel. He'd be wrong, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything in the patent process, apparently.
      • by viewtouch (1479)
        Ignorance by individuals is a fact of life, not a problem to be solved in our lifetime.

        The US Patent system... now there is a problem that needs to be solved, the sooner the better.

        There are far more horror stories at USP&TO than Hollywood ever produced.

        Oh, and by the way, the Apple computer on the shelf here has a 3 digit serial number; it's from the first batch shipped to the east coast in mid '77.
  • I watched the video [microsoft.com] and was interested by the response times they graphed at the end. Standard touch screen had lower response times in almost every case. In fact, shift was only more faster in one case.

    Sure maybe you might miss a small target the first time with a standard touch screen, but it's not rocket science to try again.

    I can see this being useful where targets are very small, and very densely packed on the screen.

  • A little off-topic, but has anyone used Home Depot's self-checkout lanes? Just bought a house so I'm there a lot :( It's probably the same everywhere, but the item scanner is a good 2 feet away from the card reader, which isn't well integrated. You find yourself going back and forth sometimes and inappropriate selections such as payment type are actually on the item scanner. It's a very hacked-together system, probably since they wanted to recycle existing card readers.

    The classic card-readers need thei
  • Another option is rethinking the UI in general to start with. I think the article details a good option for exising UI's, backwards compatible and all. But designing for a touch screen really takes a bit of refactoring, in general. For example, most programs on my Pocket PC phone are unusable with fingers on the touch screen; but Tom Tom Navigator isn't; it is a dream to use with just a meat stylus, in almost all the modes/screens it has.
  • I was playing with an LG Prada touch screen phone and when you press the numbers to dial or text, the on screen buttons re-appear offset vertically above their original position. It works a treat. (This was in London, England.)

Neckties strangle clear thinking. -- Lin Yutang

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