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The Age of Touch Computing 414

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the touch-me-there dept.
DigitalDame2 writes "In 2009, touch computing will go mainstream. More and more devices will be legitimately touch-enabled with gesture controls for browsing through photos, tossing objects around the screen, flicking to turn the page of a book, and even playing video games and watching movies. In fact, Gartner analyst Steve Prentice told the BBC recently that the mouse will be dead in three to five years. PCMag has a full look at touch computing — the past, the present, and the future — including an interview with Sabrina Boler, touch UI designer."
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The Age of Touch Computing

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  • The mouse... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CannonballHead (842625) on Monday December 15, 2008 @12:48PM (#26120891)

    IIRC, people have been claiming the mouse will be dead in X amount of years for quite a few years now. And keyboards, too. And non-automatically-driven cars. And I think we're supposed to be living on the moon by now or something...

    Predictions and speculation are cool, but humans do not appear to be very good at fulfilling them in general. Talk to an economist about that.

  • Re:The mouse... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zironic (1112127) on Monday December 15, 2008 @12:49PM (#26120909)

    In my experience touch computing just plain sucks, I'm barely able to get anything done without tactile feedback.

  • by bemymonkey (1244086) on Monday December 15, 2008 @12:53PM (#26120963)
    Hey, touchscreens are great and all, especially on small devices like smartphones or PMPs, but for the 24"+ monsters they're calling monitors these days, I'll stick with a halfway decent mouse...
  • Re:The mouse... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SirGarlon (845873) on Monday December 15, 2008 @12:53PM (#26120971)
    From TFA:

    In fact, Gartner analyst Steve Prentice told the BBC recently that the mouse will be dead in three to five years.

    Now there's the voice of authority. Not.

  • The mice will live (Score:4, Insightful)

    by eebra82 (907996) on Monday December 15, 2008 @12:53PM (#26120973) Homepage

    In fact, Gartner analyst Steve Prentice told the BBC recently that the mouse will be dead in three to five years.

    I know Steve has 33 years of IT experience, but such claim is anything but probable. The only true mouse replacement would be a thought-based medium and I doubt that any commercialization of such technology is here within 5 years. For web surfing, touch and movement works just fine, but when you go for precision like gaming, Photoshop and programming.

    A movement tracker for laptops would be a great touchpad replacement, however.

  • by Hao Wu (652581) on Monday December 15, 2008 @12:54PM (#26120999) Homepage
    Try poking your computer screen for more than a few seconds. People's arms get tired FAST. It would be awful for the user to have to do it even occasionally.

    Touchpads and tablets are the way to go. There's plenty of room for development in that area.
  • Mice are not dead (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Monday December 15, 2008 @12:56PM (#26121009) Journal

    Touch computing may be mainstream for handheld devices, but it will be a long time before the mouse is replaced on a desktop PC. What these prognosticators always seem to forget about PC displays is the display is vertical and in front of you. It gets tiring if you have to hold your arm up to touch stuff on the screen all day. Your arm does at least get to rest on the table if you're using a mouse or trackpad.

    For a PC, the prognosticators also seem to forget that the mouse is good enough, and it's tremendously difficult to replace "good enough" in three years. Touch interfaces on a desktop system don't offer any benefits over a mouse (unlike on handheld devices, where a touch interface is obviously very very much better than any other kind of pointing device). For laptops, again, the vertical screen problem and arm-tiredness/screen smudging issues persist, and people find trackpads good enough with a touch screen not really offering any worthwhile benefit on a full size laptop.

  • Arms are heavy (Score:2, Insightful)

    by RayMarron (657336) on Monday December 15, 2008 @12:56PM (#26121023) Homepage

    I call BS. Using a mouse, most of my arm weight is supported by the desk, requiring only sight movements. Can you imagine working at a computer all day and having to hold your arms up to the screen? Not to mention my hand and arm obscures everything below it, unlike a mouse pointer. Also, a mouse pointer is capable of single-pixel selection. Try that with those sausages you call fingers. (That last point was mentioned in the interview)

    Touch works great for kiosks and things like ATMs. Not so much for all-day activities.

  • by JustKidding (591117) on Monday December 15, 2008 @12:57PM (#26121027)

    Indeed, imagine doing 3D CAD/CAM without a mouse. Do I have to surrender my space navigator, too?

    Touch screens royally suck for anything other than clicking really big buttons.

  • by tepples (727027) <tepples@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Monday December 15, 2008 @12:59PM (#26121051) Homepage Journal

    Reach and tap - mouse and click. How are these in any functional way different?

    With a mouse, the pointer is a small 16x16px or so bitmap. With a touch screen, the pointer is your hand, and that's probably ten times as wide and 20 times as tall. Even a stylus obscures more of the screen than a mouse pointer.

    With a mouse, you can activate something one of four ways: hover, left-click, wheel-click, or right-click. In Firefox, these are bound to open linked page, open linked page in new window, and show link's context menu, respectively. Hover isn't bound to anything, but CSS or JavaScript on a page often binds hover to show a menu. With a touch screen, there's only one click unless you make your system non-free and license the patents covering basic multitouch gestures from Apple.

  • by Shados (741919) on Monday December 15, 2008 @12:59PM (#26121063)

    The only thing I can think of, is the keyboard being a touch screen itself (think the newer Wacom tablets), and would extent to the mouse "section" of your desk (or you'd have two).

    So you'd have a touchscreen "keyboard" with tactil feedback (that already exists, they'd have to improve it though), and a "pointer" touchscreen that would act as the mouse.

    Considering all the effort that has went through making mice comfier, I don't see it changing in 3-5 years. And mice would stay around if only as a gaming peripherical... no one has yet found a good replacement for the mouse for FPS and the like... even the Wii remote is hit or miss. On top of that, considering all the people who hurt themselves using a mouse from being in a poor position for too long, I can't see, as you point out, how an alternative touchscreen-based solution would work without making all of that worse.

  • Re:The mouse... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MBGMorden (803437) on Monday December 15, 2008 @01:01PM (#26121079)

    I think a lot of that comes down to the fact that for desktop computing, the keyboard and mouse work, really, really well. Sure you can experiment and such, but it seems like any move (on the desktop) to replace those objects is born mostly out of a feeling that we should replace those devices simply because they've been around for so long, and not because of any real shortfalls of the devices themselves.

    The place where they DON'T work well: portable computing, has seen the rise of touch computing because it is a way to interact without the space requirements of the keyboard or mouse. IMHO though, it's still a compromise that doesn't work as well from a purely functional standpoint. Basically, I'd rather have a keyboard and mouse at that time but it's simply not practical.

    Overall, I think the age of touch screen MOBILE devices is here, and is here to stay for quite a while. Keyboard and mice will likely not be suplanted any time soon for other devices. The desktop itself is also often the subject of predictions stating certain demise, but I think that falls into the same area: when you are at home, there is something to be said for nice big speakers and a large screen to look at things on. Even if the portable device does become one's main computer, I'd suspect that we'll see a resurgence of docking stations where you could come home and dock your iPhone to a keyboard/mouse and larger monitor for more relaxed usage. If that becomes popular I'd also envision a sharp rise in home-NAS devices like the Drobo or Apple's Time Machine. As of right now, and for the foreseeable future, I just don't see the limited capacity of portable devices keeping up with the storage needs of the individual. Particularly as more and more TV shows and movies start to shift towards online distribution.

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Monday December 15, 2008 @01:04PM (#26121115) Homepage

    > Indeed, imagine doing 3D CAD/CAM without a mouse.

    I have no difficulty at all imagining doing that with a trackball. Doing it with a mouse, on the other hand, sounds like a PITA. But then, so does using a mouse for much of anything. Yet almost everyone uses a mouse. Mice aren't going away.

  • Try poking your computer screen for more than a few seconds. People's arms get tired FAST.

    Now lay your flat screen monitor flat on your desk, where your keyboard is, and try again. It won't be as tiring. There's a reason the Nintendo DS puts the touch screen on the bottom.

  • Re:form factor (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Culture20 (968837) on Monday December 15, 2008 @01:07PM (#26121157)

    only if the monitor is relatively flat against the desktop, at a reasonable height to prevent wrist strain, and easy to access...

    and simultaneously perpendicular to the desktop at a reasonable height to prevent neck and back strain... Since it can't be both parallel and perpendicular at the same time, touch computing necessarily won't replace all mice until tablets replace all workstations and laptops.

    "This new HP Touchsmart PC comes with a 3 year warranty and 3 year chiropractic service!"

  • Re:form factor (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tepples (727027) <tepples@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Monday December 15, 2008 @01:09PM (#26121175) Homepage Journal

    and simultaneously perpendicular to the desktop at a reasonable height to prevent neck and back strain

    Why? Before PCs became popular, people wrote with a pen on paper placed parallel to the desk. How hard did centuries of that strain people's necks?

    Since it can't be both parallel and perpendicular at the same time

    Nintendo DS.

  • by Hordeking (1237940) on Monday December 15, 2008 @01:12PM (#26121203)
    Anyone who thinks touchscreen computing will dominate soon better come up with a smudge-free coating.

    I wonder how effective touchscreen computing would be for me with super-greasy hands after eating a pound of bacon. Yum!
  • by mdarksbane (587589) on Monday December 15, 2008 @01:16PM (#26121241)

    Now try spending a day looking *down* at your desk to see your monitor. It's useful in specific situations, but eventually the neck strain will kill you.

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Monday December 15, 2008 @01:21PM (#26121323) Homepage

    It's hard to picture touch computing replacing the mouse graphic design.

    HUH???

    The mouse has been dead in Graphics design for years now. Any graphics designer not using a tablet and pen is wasting a LOT of their clients time and limiting themselves hard.

    Quit being a cheap-ass and go buy a wacom.

  • Re:The mouse... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Swizec (978239) on Monday December 15, 2008 @01:23PM (#26121361) Homepage
    Of course you can't get anything done without tactile feedback. Our whole phisiology has been evolved for tactile feedback and our brain has gotten very good at interpreting it over the past few million years. And now these bozos think in a few short decades we can relearn a whole new paradigm to manipulating our surroundings? I don't think so.

    Just think how much easier it is to turn a knob to adjust volume. You know exactly how much you've moved it. But with these modern touch screens you have to tap and observe what the software tells you has changed via a visual cue.

    Sure when you think about it an equivalent to turning a knob could probably be made with a good touch screen UI, but still, you have to first look to position your finger, then drag it across very empty space and hope it worked.

    How about typing, is it even possible to blind type with a touch-screen keyboard? How about detecting when you've mispressed a key without looking at the keyboard? Somehow I doubt that last bit is possible and I know from personal experience I usually detect errors with typing much sooner via my fingers than my eyes because by the time the eyes figure out what I've typed is incorrect I'm already two words ahead.
  • by boyfaceddog (788041) on Monday December 15, 2008 @01:24PM (#26121381) Journal

    I know this is all about the PC and we all know that as long as people have PCs somewhere there will always be mice and keyboards of some kind.

    But look around. How many people have iPhones/iPods/knockoffs? How 'bout the new touch screen blackberries? Been to Redbox? Worked at a McDonald's? Its all touch screen. Computers in the wild (not home or work) are more likely to have a touch interface than not and hand-held computers (sorry 'phones') are all going that way.

  • Re:The mouse... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Swizec (978239) on Monday December 15, 2008 @01:26PM (#26121401) Homepage
    So instead of holding my head straight similar to the natural position of, say, walking, you propose that I should be looking down at the desk all day? Can you say neck and shoulder strain beyond all reason?
  • by mangu (126918) on Monday December 15, 2008 @01:46PM (#26121681)

    With a mouse, the pointer is a small 16x16px or so bitmap. With a touch screen, the pointer is your hand, and that's probably ten times as wide and 20 times as tall. Even a stylus obscures more of the screen than a mouse pointer.

    With a mouse, you can activate something one of four ways: hover, left-click, wheel-click, or right-click.

    I've had a PDA for a few years and could never use effectively the stylus because of that. There's no way to right-click and open an options sub-menu.

    And there's more: with a mouse there's a difference between pointing and clicking. When I'm showing something to someone, or just trying to concentrate in a particular aspect, I move the cursor around the area I'm trying to emphasize without clicking. Sometimes I point at the screen with my finger. With a touchscreen, even by waving your hand at the screen you run the risk of accidentally touching it and starting something.

  • Re:The mouse... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by steelfood (895457) on Monday December 15, 2008 @01:47PM (#26121701)

    You "click" by pressing down on the entire touch pad (well, the part towards the front), meaning no room is lost to buttons.

    That only works when your UI paradigm is built around one mouse button.

  • Re:The mouse... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Swizec (978239) on Monday December 15, 2008 @02:04PM (#26121939) Homepage
    Most people I know don't really read books for 8 hours every day in that position. In fact, most pick it up and lean back when they read for an extended period of time.

    Same goes for writing, you'll notice most kids at school (the kind of people who _actually_ write by hand for extended periods of time these days) lean back most of the time to reduce neck and shoulder strain.

    Hell, even a lot of typists lean back a lot of the time to reduce neck and shoulder strain.
  • by MMInterface (1039102) on Monday December 15, 2008 @03:04PM (#26122729)
    This is modded funny but it's true. The mouse requires a lot less effort than touching your screen. In that sense touch screen is almost a step backwards. The benefits of touch screen are very situational, but it seems like novelty and looks are whats drawing attention to it. I think that the touch screen is often beneficial in situations similar to tablet pc: when you are standing up, and can't easily use a mouse and keyboard.

    Right now touch is often being marketed as one size fits all. The success of the iPhone has helped support that(not trying to diss Apple so please don't hurt me). The use of touch screen on phones is somewhat different though. Touch screen works better for phones when you are stationary. When you are on the go and want to type without looking at your screen the whole time, touch screen is not the best method for input.

    In vehicles there are other issues. Touch screen has the benefit of saving space by combining the screen and the input devices. The problem is that it requires more attention that may be better focused on driving. With conventional controls you don't necessarily need to look away from the road for a split second.

    I think the problem is that instead of finding the best use for things, people tend to follow all or nothing trends. Every new trend is supposed to completely replace the old one. At least that's how the media often presents things. Saying the mouse is going to die pretty much means they want to get credit for predicting the latest fad. Touch screen will excel in certain areas and the mouse in others. In a desktop setting, the mouse is generally going to be there fore a very long time.
  • by cbreaker (561297) on Monday December 15, 2008 @03:56PM (#26123427) Journal
    You miss the point so absurdly. The problem isn't a screen you LOOK at; the problem is that your screen, sitting on it's stand, makes for an uncomfortable keyboard. (Hint: You have to keep your arms raised.)

    It also makes an uncomfortable mouse. It can be bad enough having to move your fingers off the keyboard to reach for the mouse - imaging having to reach up to a screen to touch something?

    The mouse and keyboard are pretty damned near perfect human interface devices and it's going to take a major overhaul of the workspace, UI design, and software in general to eliminate them. To make it feasible for the workplace, you're also going to need some sort of voice recognition that is smart and can determine if you're talking to the computer or the person sitting next to you.

    Touch computing is fantastic for things like kiosks, small devices, and one-off systems such as the Microsoft "table" computer thing. But not for general purpose computing. Not for a long time, if ever - who knows, by then something better might come along.
  • Re:The mouse... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Culture20 (968837) on Monday December 15, 2008 @04:17PM (#26123753)
    But Apple's mice _don't_ have two buttons. They have one big button with multiple sensors underneath. This results in two or more failed right-clicks in a row quite often. Apple could have made distinct buttons when they added the scrollball, but it'd make their mice less pretty.
  • Re:The mouse... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sammyF70 (1154563) on Monday December 15, 2008 @04:32PM (#26123903) Homepage Journal

    I have a Genius Traveler 350 trackball for my AA1. It takes some practice, and it's definitely not the best input device for a lot of applications (or first person games for that matter), but it's perfect when you're in a train, in a plane or anywhere else where you don't have a flat non reflective space for a mouse. It definitely beats the inbuilt trackpad.

  • Re:The mouse... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Chris Mattern (191822) on Monday December 15, 2008 @05:00PM (#26124421)

    I don't know about you, but I touch-type. I want my keyboard to "reprogram" itself about as much as I want a 2x4 to the face.

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