Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?
Displays Input Devices

The Age of Touch Computing 414

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."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The Age of Touch Computing

Comments Filter:
  • form factor (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Gnaythan1 ( 214245 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @12:54PM (#26120991)

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

    I don't want to reach past my keyboard all the time to touch the screen. and I certainly don't want to lose the haptic response and general precision of a keyboard.

    If a touchcreen can handle 50 words per minute typing, and is as comfortable as a keyboard..... maybe.

  • If you say so (Score:3, Interesting)

    by overshoot ( 39700 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @12:54PM (#26120993)

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

    Maybe for tasks that don't require any precision. There are quite a few of those -- but that's not all of them.

  • Death of the Mouse? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Stanislav_J ( 947290 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @12:56PM (#26121013)

    Ridiculous prediction. Can someone explain how it would be "progress" or an "improvement" if, instead of my hand comfortably resting on my desk manipulating the mouse, I would have to repeatedly lift my arm and poke at my screen? Especially since in my case, poor circulation and some arthritis make repeated lifting or movement of my arm rather painful over time. (Not to mention that a self-cleaning screen would be a necessity -- my screen gets dirty enough on its own without my fat fingers smearing it up on a regular basis.)

    Touchscreen technology has its place, but this is a perfect example of how a technology some people think is "cool" or "advanced" leads them to feel that it should be universally adopted.

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

    by xtracto ( 837672 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @01:02PM (#26121095) Journal

    Also why would I want to be waving my arms at my CRT or LCD screen?

    Just earlier today I was thinking about this. I believe that one possible sollution to the "gorilla arm" syndrome is to put the monitor in the place of the keyboard, and move the keyboard a bit down.

    The second issue to address (all this IMHO) is the visual feedback. I believe that in order to make touch-based interaction feel more natural, the applications will have to present the information in a more familiar way.

    In general, I believe that touch computing can be real and can have advantages as well, however, I also believe that using touch computing does not directly means keyboardless computing as they serve a different purpose.

  • by mpapet ( 761907 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @01:11PM (#26121193) Homepage

    I drove an '89 Honda Civic into the ground this month and replaced it with a Prius.

    I'm not happy with the touch screen controls at all. For example, turning on the heat. I live in SoCal, one rarely needs to do this.

    1. press climate hardware button along the side of the touch screen.
    On the touch screen:
    2. press recirculate
    3. press the appropriate fan speed.
    4. press defrost front
    5. press defrost rear

    Turn the car off and run errand. Repeat steps 1-5 after errand because it doesn't save those settings.

    In the Civic, this was all done by feeling for the buttons on the dash and sliding the vent controls. I could do all of that and still keep two eyes on the road. I have to check the touchscreen on the Prius which I don't care for at all.

    Given the way desktop computer UI's have only become more complicated, I'm positive the car's touchscreen UI will only get more complicated. That's a bad thing.

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

    by JCSoRocks ( 1142053 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @01:18PM (#26121289)
    Touch computing fails in every way possible.

    I like my monitor perfectly clean. Using displays all covered in finger grease drives me nuts.

    Your hands conceal parts of the screen while you're using it.

    You can move a mouse over a greater distance much more quickly than your entire hand. It's also much easier to get to a specific pixel / small area with a mouse than with your fat fingertip.

    People keep lauding the Minority Report UI like it's a good idea. Do you really want to have to hold your arms up like that and move them around all day?

    Positioning the screen ergonomically for use as in input device puts it in a position where you're hanging your head looking down all day. The minority report problem obviously applies if you position your screen at the optimal viewing position.

    Others have already mentioned it, but lack of tactile feedback is a big one. This is particularly important for programs whose UIs aren't that great. You hit the touchscreen button - the button didn't move and there was no sound. You can only guess that your button "press" didn't register because nothing happened... but you don't really know. I see this on ATMs all the time.

    How is wasting half of your screen real estate on a keyboard a good idea? Oh, you can bring it up dynamically? Oh great, well then I guess you don't get to use keyboard shortcuts. That sucks.
  • Re:The mouse... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by _xeno_ ( 155264 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @01:22PM (#26121351) Homepage Journal

    Try the touch pad on the new MacBook and MacBook Pro. It works amazingly well - and one of the reasons is that you don't "tap" to click, you click to click. As in, physically press down on it, and feel and hear a click. You can enable "tap" to click but it's off by default, and given the number of misclicks I've made on other touch pads, I rather like it being off.

    Several things make this touch pad just work compared to other touch pads I've used:

    1. It's giant, compared to the touch pad on most other laptops.
    2. You "click" by pressing down on the entire touch pad (well, the part towards the front), meaning no room is lost to buttons.
    3. You can perform "gestures" using multiple fingers. Four fingers slid down enters Exposé mode, four fingers slid up shows the desktop, sideways switches applications. Pinch to zoom (like on the iPhone), two fingers to scroll: it all works very nicely and seamlessly.
    4. And, probably the most importantly, you're not touching the screen. You're touching a touch pad below the keyboard.

    So you get tactile feedback when clicking, you get a large work area, and you get all those wonderful multi-finger gestures. It works amazingly well, to the point I was trying to use the gestures on my Windows laptop after less than a day of using the MacBook.

    Of course, this isn't quite the same as the "touch computing" they're talking about where you touch the screen. And the touch pad is nowhere near as accurate as a mouse (although it's good enough for day-to-day use).

    But it does show to me that touch-based gestures do have a future - I just don't think I'll be touching the screen on a full-sized computer any time soon.

  • Re:The mouse... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 15, 2008 @01:23PM (#26121371)

    I believe that one possible solution to the "gorilla arm" syndrome is to put the monitor in the place of the keyboard, and move the keyboard a bit down.

    The problem with this is now you have to look down at your monitor. This is not ergonomically feasible, until we come up with chairs that support your face while you look down. Go to a public library and look at all the wacky positions people find to read books. Most of these involve terrible posture.

  • Re:The mouse... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by chammy ( 1096007 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @01:44PM (#26121645)
    It still doesn't solve the main issue for me. When you stick your fingers or whatever in front of a screen, you're obscuring that part of the screen. Why would I want to cover up what I'm trying to manipulate?
  • Re:The mouse... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JasterBobaMereel ( 1102861 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @01:52PM (#26121759)

    See gorilla arm: n.

            The side-effect that destroyed touch-screens as a mainstream input technology despite a promising start in the early 1980s. It seems the designers of all those spiffy touch-menu systems failed to notice that humans aren't designed to hold their arms in front of their faces making small motions. After more than a very few selections, the arm begins to feel sore, cramped, and oversized â" the operator looks like a gorilla while using the touch screen and feels like one afterwards. This is now considered a classic cautionary tale to human-factors designers; âoeRemember the gorilla arm!â is shorthand for âoeHow is this going to fly in real use?â.

  • by Punk CPA ( 1075871 ) <mitchtownsend@ho[ ] ['tma' in gap]> on Monday December 15, 2008 @02:22PM (#26122217)
    I remember using the HP 150 touch screen monitor [] in the 1980's. It seemed kind of cool at the time, but since it could be used in that mode only with DOS programs specifically written for it, it remained a non-solution for a non-problem. Also, Zarkonnen's comment about "gorilla arm" is absolutely correct; I found myself using my left hand to hold up my right arm while poking at the stupid screen. It seemed cool for a little while, but it got harder rather than easier to use over time. Even the Word Perfect shortcut keys didn't have that disadvantage.

    The only user input device worse than that is that little blue clit between the letters G, H, and B on my laptop. I have, of course, disabled the touchpad that used to send the cursor skittering in every direction.
  • Re:The mouse... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sam0737 ( 648914 ) <> on Monday December 15, 2008 @02:27PM (#26122277)

    Agree! I owned a Windows Mobile Phone but I hate the part that I cannot dial without looking at the screen. (and I'm not happy to announce to everyone that who I am calling through the voice control)

    iPhone sucks even further...It force me to use the belly of finger to touch, thumbnail does not work. Which means the uncertainty of the hotspot is increased ten folded.

    I owned a TouchStream keyboard before, which I think that's where Apple accuqired the multitouch technology. TS keyboard is a flat, oversized keypad except it's multitouch and to the point that it can determine if the pressing finger is the Index, or Ring, or Pinky. With a handy set of Gesture which makes the keyboard very cool to play with. Though, again, the lack of tactile feedback make it quite hard to use.

    I hope someone, someday, could invent an membrane for generating texture. Perhaps we could use ink-bubbling technology in Print head to trap some air bubble below the membrane?

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

    by torkus ( 1133985 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @02:35PM (#26122403)

    You've touched on my thoughts regarding touch screens. I have a tablet, iPhone, Storm, treo due to work. Also have a ATM card so more touch screen use there. Also have a few "real" laptops, blackberry curve, keyboards, etc.

    What I've found is a touch screen is good for simple data input. Call it one-dimensional. Pick from this menu of choices. Manipulate this single object. Basically something you can do with one hand...usually 1-2 fingers. For this, it's quick.

    Once you get more complex, call it two-dimensional, things slow to a crawl on a touch screen. Typing is either slow or error prone. Multi-hand manipulation? Well sure, but your eyes can't pick out enough detail over the area of two hands to be of much use. This is where a keyboard and/or mouse become much more efficient. They're faster and I equate faster with better.

    So touch computing will grow somewhat. it will comtinue to be refined and useful for one-dimensional data input. Simple selection/manipulation. Good luck getting me to lift my hands off the keyboard to the screen just to do something i would with a mouse. Heck, i use keyboard shortcuts so I don't have to move my hand off to the mouse when possible. The time saved might be 1-3 seconds...but i do it a thousand times a day.

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

    by alta ( 1263 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @02:37PM (#26122455) Homepage Journal
    A complicated set of mirrors placed all over the desk could solve that problem, but it presents its own new set of problems. One alone would not be good, need even amount to get rid of the 'mirror image' problem. Actually, I said this jokeingly, but it would allow you to be able to have have rather small monitor, at say 12", but a really high resolution, optically blown up in front of you. It would also make your hand massive though. Getting all those optics lined up would just be a nighmare though.
  • Eye Computing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by danieltdp ( 1287734 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @02:41PM (#26122493)
    I would like eye computing. You just target something with your eyes and bam. It's selected. If you don't press any key, it is selection. Key A grabs, Key B clicks. Keys goes into a small wireless control that has some buttons and maybe secondary small joystick for more complex moves that requires more than two degrees of freedom.
  • Re:The mouse... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by JCSoRocks ( 1142053 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @02:54PM (#26122633)
    Good point. I think a touchscreen's inability to address deeper "two-dimensional" interfaces is what many have overlooked. They see touchscreens all over and assume that means they can do anything. As a means of ordering fast food a touchscreen could be great. Tap the picture of what you want, choose from a list of customizations (no pickles?), and then pick your drink. I think the line is drawn between content creation and simple content viewing / wizard type uses.
  • Re:The mouse... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by theaveng ( 1243528 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @03:05PM (#26122743)

    Yes I recall that lots of writing in school led to neck and back strain. And Thomas Jefferson invented a gadget to let him prop-up books at the same angle as a computer screen in order to relieve the stress of neck-bending. Today's upright screens are an improvement.

  • Re:The mouse... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 15, 2008 @03:33PM (#26123133)

    Actually, according to several studies I've read over the past few years, a monitor that is set slightly lower than eye-level, angled up toward your face is better for your neck than staring straight across.

    I'm not a physician, but in my own experiments of long computing hours, I have less neck strain from using a laptop on my lap than using my desktop at eye level. Also, when reading a book I tend to not hold it directly in front of my face. These were very unscientific experiments of course, and I don't have good posture normally, so take that with a grain of salt.

    A quick search on google for monitor ergonomics turns up several pages about this subject however.

    Here's one: []
    "The old guidelines that recommended that the monitor be placed at eye level were based in part on the belief that the resting position of the eyes (considered to be the most comfortable gaze angle) is 15 below the horizontal (Morgan, Cook, Chapanis, and Lund 1963). New evidence (and some that has been around for a while) shows that, while the eyes might be most comfortable with a 15 gaze angle when looking at distant objects, for close objects they prefer a much more downward gaze angle (Kroemer 1997). Figure 1 shows the optimum position for the most important visual display, 20 - 50 below the horizontal line of sight, according to the International Standards Organization (ISO 1998)."

    (Posting AC because I cleared out the password managers in both my computer and my brain.)

The next person to mention spaghetti stacks to me is going to have his head knocked off. -- Bill Conrad