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Input Devices Hardware

The Ultimate Dual-Hand Touchscreen 275

LithiumX writes "This morning I saw a video demonstration of the most interesting input technology I've seen for a long time. This is a touch-screen that accepts inputs from multiple (I saw at least 8) points at once. It seems very responsive, the display is large and of decent resolution, and they actually wrote software to take advantage of it. It appears to be entirely research at the moment. I'd offer up organs for one of these things."
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The Ultimate Dual-Hand Touchscreen

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  • Which in turn look a lot like Apple recycling their iPod scrollwheel and Synaptics double-finger gestures.
  • Didn't we see Apple patent [] this sort of thing recently? Can anyone describe how this patent may or may not apply to the above demo?
  • I bet you I could get a hold of one, whats your bloodtype ?

    Just kidding but that is seriously cool, and I dont say that often.

    I'd pay 2,500 for that Way before I would shell it out for a plasma TV....
  • Uber-cool (Score:2, Interesting)

    The satellite imagery & topographic maps are the user navigating NASA World Wind []. Way cool.
    • The funny thing about this is that SGI had things like this ten years ago already; I myself saw demos at the CeBIT fair several times. It's nice to see that this kind of thing is available for the average PC now, but it's also sad that SGI seems to be in its death throes at the same time...
  • by SimHacker ( 180785 ) * on Monday February 13, 2006 @01:05PM (#14707591) Homepage Journal

    The Exploratorium [] in San Francisco had a multi-point touch screen paint system like this in the early 90's, which anyone could play with. It was really great, and quite elegant! It was running a fun program that let you paint with your fingertips, real paintbrushes dipped in water, as well as textured objects like a sponge and play-dough. It used an oblique video camera behind a plate of glass, and your fingers or the wet brush changed the index of refraction in a way that would show up brightly on the camera, and thus paint on the screen. There was no limit to the number of points you could paint at once, and what you could use as a brush was only limited by your imagination and what you could get away with in public: you could paint with brushes, sponges, clay, your fingertips, the palms of both hands, your face, your tongue, your boobs, greasy french fries and hamburger patties, or vomit on the screen to make interesting textures. (It's a good thing the Exploratorium makes everything robust, kid-proof, and easy to clean! I've been to some great parties at that place...)


    • robust, kid-proof, and easy to clean

      Here's the thought that blew me away: someday the walls of all our homes will be that stuff, once it's really cheap. Or at least whole walls, somewhere, will be screens like that.

      Imagine thinking "I want a poster of this picture I have, and I want it on THIS part of the wall" and reaching up and sliding your other posters to the side, right-clicking, and pulling it from the background, resizing it, and arranging it with your hand.

      And then imagine thinking "I want my roo
    • I saw the Exploratorium thing myself, and it was REALLY cool. I still want one. In fact, I've since built a rearscreen device that uses infrared reflection to accomplish multi-point interaction [] using a modified version of some of the techniques used in the Holowall. []

      Also working on a new version due to make an appearance in an art show in March. [] -- Sync
  • It looks like a continuation of the technology employed by fingerworks [] which used some type of capacitance array to track points. It looks like they finally have it on a visual screen. Hopefully this will increase the addoption of gesture-based controls.
    • Re:fingerworks (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Ford Prefect ( 8777 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @01:23PM (#14707838) Homepage
      Entirely different - it's based on something called 'frustrated internal reflection'. Simple version: you have a thin slab of transparent perspex with LEDs around the sides. The light from the LEDs is kept inside thanks to total internal reflection - it's a bit like a big flat piece of fibre optic cable in a sense.

      When you place a finger or other appendage on the upper surface of the perspex, the total internal reflection breaks down and the fingertip (or whatever) gets illuminated - you track this with a camera pointing upwards at the perspex. To get the computer display gubbins, you also have a video projector pointing at the perspex.

      I'm not sure how amenable it is to miniaturisation, but since it's used in fingerprint readers (without the video display) it's probably not too bad - presumably you'd have to change the projector and camera to flat equivalents, of course...

      (Something I noticed on the page last week - a reference to work on identifying which finger is touching the display. He's updated that sentence to "Wouldn't it also be nice to identify which finger (e.g. thumb, index, etc.) is associated with each contact?" - but I'd had a sudden vision of this thing using fingerprints as, well, unique finger identification tags. The guy behind it seems pretty big on computer vision, and is also working on stuff like a "new generation of CMOS imaging sensors that feature on-board signal processing functionality, we are experimenting with creating a 1000fps non-invasive eye-tracker for under $100" - maybe some custom hardware for tracking and zooming in on the glowing fingerprints and identifying the fingers from there?)
  • They didnt write all their own software, they used NASA World Wind ( [] as well (satellite / aerial imagery viewer).
  • Hmmmmmm, though I wonder what power consumption is like.
  • Damnit!!! (Score:5, Funny)

    by CatsupBoy ( 825578 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @01:07PM (#14707626)
    Now my favorite touch screen gag is obsoleted:
    User: This touch screen is awesome, but how do I right click on items?
    Me: Use your right hand

    *user stares blankly*
  • by Anti Frozt ( 655515 ) <> on Monday February 13, 2006 @01:08PM (#14707640)
    "I'd offer up organs for one of these things."

    This being /., we all know which organ should be first to go, seeing as how it's the least used.
  • Benefits vs cost (Score:2, Insightful)

    by zebadee ( 551743 )
    I appreciate that touch screens are faster to use in some situations compared to a mouse, and in some situations (public access terminals in a cinema etc.) they are better but for the average consumer are touch screens necessary. Most people out there have been brought up with the mouse and are very adapt at using it. Other than the coolness factor (akin to having the fastest graphics card available to play doom3 at 200fps) is there a real market/need for touch screens for general consumers? Especially co
    • While the cost of this sort of hardware will be prohibitive for large-scale use, I fully believe that it's just this sort of interface that will someday replace the mouse. Keyboards are likely to remain in use for a very long time, but mice are simply a pointing device... and we all come with a natural built-in pointer (our fingers).

      In the comming decades, I'd expect people's "monitors" to be replaced with hardware similar to this drafting-table design.
      • The keyboard concept will stay the same, but it will likely become integrated into a screen like this. I don't mind having one normal monitor in front of me to view work on, and one of these touch video screen things on my desk (Or even in my desk) to interface with. If I could drag work from one to the other, so much the better. Move my keyboard out of the way, get to a graphics tablet, then a piano keyboard etc. all on one screen?
        • I don't know about virtual keyboards. There have been many touch-screen style keyboards, and I have used membrane keyboards that were sensitive enough to practically be touch screen. I have never liked using a single one. I like the tactile feel of a full-sized keyboard. I actually even miss the Click you got from the older ones. I don't need anything heavy, but I like the curved spring-loaded keys, and it makes it far easier to stay aligned when you have tactile feedback.

          Virtual keyboards might see
      • Keyboards are likely to remain in use for a very long time, but mice are simply a pointing device... and we all come with a natural built-in pointer (our fingers).

        Yes, but pointing with this device requires the arm and shoulder.

        I recently switched to a trackball. Now I truly only use my finger (and love it).

        I don't think it is ultimately entirely practical. Though it would be neat if you simply had access to that as an additional possibility.
    • What's so hard about using touch screens for the average consumer? They had to learn how to use mice, and it didn't kill them. I don't know of many ATMs that use mice, but a whole lot of them use touch screens, and they seem to be pretty popular with consumers.

      But the point of this article that some people seem to be missing, is that the device is much more advanced than a typical touch screen, because it can sense multiple points of contact at once. Which is an advantage for people who have more than o

  • Me too (Score:4, Funny)

    by thefirelane ( 586885 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @01:16PM (#14707743)
    I'd offer up organs for one of these things

    Me too, just not mine.

  • Wow (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @01:17PM (#14707756) Homepage Journal
    That's an incredible technology. If it works as demonstrated, I can see it replacing the mouse. If we can get useful keyboards in there (sorry, software-based on-screen keyboards suck, they lack tactile feedback) as well, this could open up a whole new way in which to interact.

    See, a lot of buttons on the mouse and on the screen are merely to differentiate between different actions, e.g. resize, fullscreen or close a window. More logical and intuitive options are possible with multitouch technology, e.g. as shown in the demos.
    • Good point about the tactile feedback. I think the ultimate iteration of this device would incorporate some kind of magnetic or piezoelectric layer in a pixel grid, so that arbitrary pixels can be made to pulse. Pulse rapidly to create vibrations. This would enable tactile keyboard response, button clicking response, "dragging" response - all kinds of interesting tactile feedback.
    • actually -- a company is introducing haptic touchscreens [] that, IIRC, use side-to-side motion to fool your fingers into thinking you're pushing into the screen.
      • by Tom ( 822 )
        That's an interesting technology, I hadn't heard of that before.

        Yes, absolutely. Combine those and you have a winner. I want my Apple TouchBook Pro! :-)
  • It's like a bigger fancier version of Jazzmutant []'s Lemur device, used for controlling virtual synth plugins and the like. It even uses the same OSC protocol, I wonder if they're based on similar multi-touch tech...
  • Lemur++? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Jeremi ( 14640 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @01:24PM (#14707853) Homepage
    FWIW, you can buy something like this right now. The Lemur [] is a touch screen that supports multiple touch-points at once, and communicates over Ethernet via OpenSoundControl []. I have one on my desk at work, and it works well -- e.g. I can use 5 fingers to drag 5 different balls around the Lemur's touch-screen simultaneously, and see my actions mirrored instantaneously on the software on my PC.
    • Tell us more.

      I am fascinated by the use of this. The resolution sesme to be limited to 600x800. It might seem like enough, but it isn't though unless I could scroll a reactive 'landscape' under it.

      The project at [] is just a reactive screen with .1" resolution. It uses any image that can be 'back projected' onto its surface.

      Quite apart from the "Minority Report" flat-screen object/relationship presentation level aspect, it ccould be combined with another project at the Media
      • Tell us more.

        There isn't too much more to say... the Lemur is marketed primarily as a customizable controller for audio applications, and so it's designed for very low latency (i.e. you could use it as a virtual drum pad, etc). It comes with a program called JazzEditor that lets you drag-and-drop any combination of six or seven various widgets (1D and 2D sliders, text displays, etc) into a work area in the editor window, and matching widgets show up on the touch-screen. You can then set various properties

  • I'd offer up organs for a lot of things, this just happens to NOT be one of them. Maybe for a Lamborghini, a mansion, some super-model to love me and hold me and squeeze me - but yea, not a touch screen.
    Now if we were talking true VR (think matrix) then yea they could have my organs.
  • multitouchreel.mpg (Score:2, Interesting)

    by NowakPL ( 888097 ) chreel.mpg []

    For all you mad slashdot clickers :D
  • I'm surprised no one has mentioned this looks like Star Trek: TNG consoles.

    Either way... I could really use something like this, but I bet it gets dirty really quick. My Nintendo DS is kind of greasy as it is.
  • I had an orgasm just watching the video. Can you imagine how embarassing that would be if I used the thing 8 hours a day in an office???
  • Anybody that can't see the benefits and cool factor of this need to go back to their caves and pull out some charcoal.

    Someone said they can't see the average user wanting this? Did you see the video? I could see about a dozen areas that the average end user would wan this display for:

    Multimedia organization( group photos quickly and in a more native concept)
    Multimedia editing.
    More robust UI interaction and quicker access. Believe it or not, the computer mouse is not intuitive compared to point and touch.
    • As a UI interface designer, I could easily see how some fairly complex interaction is handled quickly by being able to use multiple points of contact. Trying to duplicate the same interaction with mouse and keyboard is ancient and slow by comparison.

      I'm not sure how far the physical technology used in the demonstration can be developed, but I do think it was aimed more at investigating new concepts in the software for user interfaces - things like the two-fingered scroll/zoom look so incredibly obvious when
    • You're missing the difficulty mentioned above... ie... our arms will tire quickly using something like this.

      I agree it would be highly useful in ADDITION to current methods... but recently my arm/shoulder was killing me until I switched from a mouse to a trackball. I can't IMAGINE trying to use this thing for a 6 hour Battlefield marathon.

      The other solution is not to play games for hours on end... naaaah...

      I would love to give it to my wife to help her sort pictures though. Another major componen
  • until I read that it was based on Frustrated Total Internal Reflection []. This baby *is* for me. Plus, butt mousing.
  • Minority Report (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tamnir ( 230394 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @01:33PM (#14707982)
    After the initial "Oooooh, shiny! I'll give a kidney for one!" impulse, this reminds me quite a bit of the spiffy user interface in Minority Report, probably because of the intense arms-waving involved. So, makes me think the same too: very cool to see, but highly impractical. Your arms and shoulders would get painfully tired after just a few minutes using this...

    So, I'll be keeping my kidney this time, thank you very much. I'll just go grab a box of tissues and watch the video again... ;-)
    • That you never had a conversation (especially a bar-talk) with Italian descendents. In my family, we move continuously (both) our hands to maintain a conversation, for twelve hours or more.
    • I'm sure when the mouse was first demonstrated they were very erratic with its movements. In practice, I'm sure most of the screens going to be used will be smaller that the one demonstrated as well.
    • No way.

      This could enalbe such things like the doctor's desk as seen in "The Island" that was out last summer.

      I would kill for my entire desktop to be a LCD with the multiple touch capabilitiy like that input device.

      Couple both of those together and that would be the biggest revolution in Computer -human interfacing that has ever happened in history. most of those demos did things that were how using computers should be right now.

      unfortunately this will be patented and locked up so that we will not see wide
    • Painfully tired? From what essentially looks like drawing board arrangement and layout on an LCD? After just a few minutes?

      I think you shoud like, work in a supply house or dock or something before you start talking about "painfully tired". Or heck, just wash a load of dishes by hand; does that make your arms painfully tired? (It shouldn't.)
      • IANAErgonomist, but I did suffer briefly from RSI symptoms and did my homework. Been paying close attention to ergonomics since then, and never had any more problem

        Thank you for the sarcasm. But please, do try this test yourself: while using your mouse as usual, extend the other arm and point a finger to the screen, following the cursor around, and tapping on the screen every time you click. Now go ahead a browse the web like that for a while (it actually feels pretty cool at first, like in the movies, wooo
  • After watching the video, I think this new touch screen seems to be a major improvement. I can see it replacing the mouse for laptops, then later desktops, unlike the current stuff that is nowhere near that good. Which really surprised me. Just the simple things like zooming that you can do with two touch points (move fingers together to zoom out, move fingers away to zoom in), really impressed me.
  • by doublem ( 118724 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @01:40PM (#14708075) Homepage Journal
    Let me spell it out:

    Major technological innovations in computers and the Internet have been driven by porn. Adoption rates are, among most early adopters, driven by that technology's ability to deliver porn. This is true of Broadband, the early graphics card races, DVD drives and the Internet itself.

    This interface requires two hands.

    Need I say more?

    Don't make me to spell it out in anatomical detail.
  • The demonstration of the technology is without a doubt the nicest technology demo I've seen in a decade (on top of the fact that the technology is great).

    I don't like to predict, but feel like I must: My children's children will see this type of thing on a daily basis.

    I've always wanted to be able to brainstorm in a free-form and extremely editable way, with both hands and all fingers - this technology would be intuitive to my design process. This beats even a touch-tablet by a mile.
  • by mattnuzum ( 839319 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @01:44PM (#14708136) Homepage
    I'd give my left hand for a two-handed touch screen. ;-)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Windex shares are up 15%
  • Here is a link to the technology used to detect the touches (I scarfed this link from a forum post on, thanks to eelfinnTy for posting it): []

    I think the touchscreen is backlit with a projector. The scattered light from the touches is probably infra-red and could be measured by an IR camera located back with the projector, which is how the device could be 'scalable to very large installations'.

    Very cool, but the slimline version for a ta
    • The multi-touch tablet is only a matter of time. Below is a link to a pdf on Cypress's capacitive switch array technology (think iPod wheel or other MP3 player sliders).

      Capacitive Key Scan []

      All they need to do is make such array's transparent and they can turn a touchscreen into a keyboard or other interactive device.
  • One step closer to LCARS! ;)
  • You should read up on
    Interactive Whiteboards. It completely blew me away to see that many classrooms no longer had chalk and blackboards, but instead presented everything using either an Powerpoint presentation or an interactive application. The advantage of the whiteboard is that is eliminates time being wasted on preparing/cleaning the whiteboard, and the mess created by chalk.

    Primary school teachers seem to have developed around 100 applications [] already.
  • Can you imagine gaming with this thing? Strategy where you can *really* manipulate units quickly. Solitare would become an elegant affair. Move those keys *exactly* where you want them, and use gestures for rapid weapon switches.
    • Solitare would become an elegant affair.

      I hear they are even working on another prototype that actually uses solid pieces of pressed plant matter painted with ink... with get this... one "screen" representing each card!

      And on top of that they are paper thin and capable of being moved and stacked in three complete dimensions!

      Truly amazing.
  • Reminds me a lot of the touch screens used on the bridge of Star Trek, especially Tne Next Generation. Multiple hand motions controlling a single function.
  • It does look cool, and what's even more surprising, no one has complained about the movie being Flash !

    I hope this is a "non-evil" use for flash, coz I payed for Swish Video2 recently and I don't want to alienate users.

  • Drool... Somebody tell the Raskin Center [] about this -- there's finally a screen that will make Archy work. If only they dropped the 'infinite undo' requirement, they might actually manage to use this screen to release something more than a CLI proof-of-concept plus a flash demo.
  • Sweet, for the next phase, let's hope they program a dynamically reconfiguring LCARS [] interface.
  • Does anyone know what music is accompanying that video?

Order and simplification are the first steps toward mastery of a subject -- the actual enemy is the unknown. -- Thomas Mann