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Businesses Input Devices Displays Microsoft Patents Software Hardware

Microsoft Buys Multi-Touch Pioneer Perceptive Pixel 85

Posted by timothy
from the it-sounds-very-sensitive dept.
theodp writes "Back in 2006, a post on Jeff Han's multi-touch screen technology — a real TED crowd-pleaser — gave Slashdot readers a taste of the iPhone and iPad future. Han spun off his NYU Research into a company called Perceptive Pixel which, among other things, gave the world CNN's Amazing Magic Wall. On Monday, Steve Ballmer announced that Microsoft is acquiring Perceptive Pixel, which not only means you'll be able to run Windows 8 on an 82-inch touchscreen, but that the Apple v,. Motorola Mobility lawsuit is about to get more interesting!"
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Microsoft Buys Multi-Touch Pioneer Perceptive Pixel

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  • More interesting? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sez Zero (586611) on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @08:55AM (#40601119) Journal
    If by "more interesting" you mean "more tedious, unnecessary and annoying", then yes, yes it will.
    • So research paid for by the public got stolen and used to spin-off a company that's now being sold to Microsoft.

      So how much of the purchase price will NYU and the US public see? Or will these blatant theft go un- noticed?

      • by cdecoro (882384)

        So research paid for by the public got stolen and used to spin-off a company that's now being sold to Microsoft.

        So how much of the purchase price will NYU and the US public see? Or will these blatant theft go un- noticed?

        Actually, when I was a grad student at NYU in 2002, when Jeff started there, he wasn't paid or funded at all. He wasn't a student, and didn't even have an office. He was just there for fun.

        From what I recall, Jeff made a decent amount of money right out of college in the dot-com boom (I think it was with CUSeeMe, an early teleconference software). After cashing that out just in time, he didn't need to work, from what I gathered, so he just was looking for a place to hang out around other interesting people

  • No more relevant than my patent on peanut butter and jelly bagels. Microsoft v Motorola Mobility, though, that could be something.
  • Given all the stink Apple makes about its multi-touch patents, you'd have thought that they invented multi-touch. I guess they just patented USING multi-touch. I'm not sure if there is a term for this class of patents, but if not, then I suggest "constrictor patent". The patent covers integrating someone else's invention (wrapping it) and then suffocates anyone who attempts to also integrate that technology. For another example, look at Apple's patent on using inductive charging in computing and portabl
    • by Theophany (2519296) on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @09:11AM (#40601213)
      No, no, no. You got it all wrong. Apple comes up with a space-age idea like multi-touch, waits for somebody intelligent to invent it and THEN claims it as their own and sues the little upstart back into the stone age. The mistake everybody makes is that just because somebody else actually put the pieces together and did the hard work doesn't mean they invented it. To invent something, you have to think about it and then patent the thought you had with some rough scribbles on a napkin. I've actually invented and patented hovercars. I'm just waiting for somebody else to make them so that I can sue them.

      It's kind of brilliant. Y'know, in a total bastard kind of way.
      • No Apple is great at marketing the features of their phones. They didn't invent it or patent it first. One of the earliest patents for multi-touch using capacitance belonged to FingerWorks who made keyboards. Apple bought the company specifically for their patents.

        Remember not only can a function be patented but the methodology as well. For example, TVs were orginally CRT. LCD, Plasma, LED, DLP, etc deliver the same basic function but with a different method. Any new TV tech must reference CRT as pr

        • And that makes me sad. I really wanted a FingerWorks keyboard. Apple has done nothing with it. Plus no one else can make these keyboards as Apple has the "rights". Apple is holding everyone back here.
        • Here's some reading for you: "A Multi-Touch Three Dimensional Touch-Sensitive Tablet" [billbuxton.com]. It's an academic paper published by the ACM detailing a capacitive, pressure-sensitive, multi-touch surface. Published - 1985.

          Abstract - A prototype touch-sensitive tablet Is presented. The tablet's main innovation is that It Is capable of sensing mare than one point of contact at a time. In addition to being able to provide position coordinates, the tablet also gives a measure of degree of contact, independently for each point of contact. In order to enable multi-touch sensing, the tablet surface is divided into a grid of discrete points. The points are scanned using a recursive area subdivision algorithm. In order to minimize the resolution lost due to the discrete nature of the grid, a novel interpolation scheme has been developed. Finally, the paper briefly discusses how multi-touch sensing, interpolation, and degree of contact sensing can be combined to expand our vocabulary In human-computer Interaction.

          Video [youtube.com]

          This stuff wasn't new in 1998, and it certainly wasn't new in 2006 with the release of the iPhone. Apple has proven to be litigious enough as of late, so why haven't they taken these multi-touch patents out of the war chest? Is it because they expect them to be summarily struck down due to

          • FingerWorks was granted a patent on multi-touch. How they achieved it is patentable separate. Patents are not granted on ideas but implementations of ideas. See CRT TV vs LCD TV I specifically mentioned above.
          • by toriver (11308)

            You fail to understand what "this stuff" is, and how patents work.

    • by MCSEBear (907831)
      The original patents on multi-touch belonged to a company founded back in 1998 called Fingerworks [wikipedia.org]. Fingerworks produced multi-touch keyboards and gesture pads for the Macintosh.

      Here [nytimes.com] is an article from 2002 discussing one of their products in the NY Times.

      Apple purchased Fingerworks a year before Jeff Han's now famous TED talk.
      • The original patents on multi-touch belonged to a company founded back in 1998 called Fingerworks

        That's interesting, since actual multitouch systems predate Fingerworks by almost 2 decades. [billbuxton.com]

        Here's an example of the pinch gesture being used in 1988: http://youtu.be/dmmxVA5xhuo?t=4m32s [youtu.be]

        Why isn't Apple suing every phone manufacturer in existence? I'm quite sure Apple doesn't want its acquired patents to face their day in court.

        • You know how I can tell you didn't read the patents?

          I owned one of the FingerWorks keyboards. Their gesture-recognition technology seemed like it had been reverse-engineered from UFOs, or brought back by a time-traveler from the far future. It was enormously more advanced than the work Buxton cites, not to slight Bill in any way (he was a big influence on my own doctoral work in HCI).

          I only hope that Microsoft does a better job of popularizing Han's advanced features. Apple still has barely begun to exploit

          • Of course technology is going to improve in the decades between the early 1980s and late 1990s. The contention is that because Apple bought Fingerworks' patents, they own the foundations of multi-touch technology. Elsewhere in this thread it was argued even that capacitive in particular (the tech on most phones today) is owned by Apple.

            This is just not the case, as these technologies existed for decades even before Fingerworks existed. In fact, in his thesis [udel.edu], co-founder of Fingerworks Wayne Westerman cit
            • by toriver (11308)

              Patents are not about these "foundations" of yours, but about specific ways of doing something. Otherwise, you would only be able to patent any form of tech once, when in reality you should not be able to patent general concepts at all.

        • by Locutus (9039)
          it's often easy to just change something in the design slightly or even just the wording of the patent to get it past the examiners. for instance, that example of the pinch gesture in 88 was just that, a gesture but one not using multi-"touch". Apple or someone could take that with a physical touching of a device interface and declare it unique and different.

          the patent system is the new housing bubble.

          LoB
    • by Sarten-X (1102295)

      There's already a term for it: different.

      The notion of using a touch-sensitive surface to control an electronic device isn't patentable. The specific type of device, paired with the specific type of screen, and controlled in a specific manner, is all wrapped up in a single invention. Change any core component, and you aren't infringing the patent. Apple's recent inductive-charging patent [uspto.gov], for example, actually covers inductive chargers that also use reradiating antennas to amplify the charged device's commu

    • by zenyu (248067)

      Even Apple wasn't dumb enough to actually sue Jeff Han. NYU MRL researchers had been thinking about multi-touch long before Jeff came up with the idea of using FTIR to implement it. Pinch zoom was one of the obvious things we did and didn't even think of patenting it. But had Apple sued you can be sure a lot of prior art would have been put on the table to invalidate their multi-touch patents. They must know about the prior art by now or they'd be threatening their competitors for that instead of things lik

    • by toriver (11308)

      Ah, yes, how could we have a tech story without mentioning Apple. They have become this sort of reverse Streisand Effect.

      Hint: If there are two distinct ways of "using inductive charging in computing and portable devices" there can be two patents. You cannot - or at least should not be able to - patent the general concept of something, just one particular way of doing it.

  • I found this quote in the article from Han really entertaining:

    “By joining Microsoft, we will be able to take advantage of the tremendous momentum of the Microsoft Office Division, tightly interoperate with its products, and deliver this technology to a very broad set of customers.”

    Right, because what I wanted for an input device for my word processing and spreadsheet applications is an 80" display that has no keyboard or mouse and relies on multitouch. Oh and if I was going to buy a Perceptive Pixel product, I'd really like it to be tightly integrated and optimized with a particular operating system instead of deciding on my own what is best for my needs. I think by "broad set of customers" he meant "now just Windows us

    • Right, because what I wanted for an input device for my word processing and spreadsheet applications is an 80" display that has no keyboard or mouse and relies on multitouch.

      I'm sure he's thinking more along the lines of powerpoint, and something like this being in every corporate meeting room. Imagine being able to author multitouch powerpoint presentations easily, and wirelessly streaming to something like this with no little to no configuration. Technical difficulties with presentation equipment still have not gone away, and this might be a solution where Microsoft can say "Buy our OS, buy our office, buy our screen, and never fumble with presentation audio/visuals again."

      • by gtall (79522)

        I find I give a better presentation with just a chalkboard. It forces me to think through the presentation rather than reduce everything to bullet points. I'm no artist and don't give a flying rat's ass about graphics.

        One time on CSPAN I saw David Patraeus give a PP presentation. He got to one slide and there were arrows here and there, pointlessly pointing at nothing in particular. He made some comment about having to rearrange the slide for some reason and then glanced off camera and said "If the Microsof

    • by westlake (615356)

      Right, because what I wanted for an input device for my word processing and spreadsheet applications is an 80" display that has no keyboard or mouse and relies on multitouch.

      I want it for presentations, training sessions and so on.

      It would be trivially easy to launch an on-screen keyboard or keypad when needed.

      I'd really like it to be tightly integrated and optimized with a particular operating system instead of deciding on my own what is best for my needs.

      Tech like this is shared like a photocopier and is not your personal, private, playground.

  • by khr (708262)

    So, if this thing is tough enough, it could be laid flat on the floor and someone can write a Twister game for it...

  • by Errol backfiring (1280012) on Tuesday July 10, 2012 @10:57AM (#40602033) Journal
    Wait, "Perceptive Pixel" is not an Ubuntu release?

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