Thursday, April 10, 2008

That was fast!

Wasn't it not only a few months back that we first heard of multi touch technology, the iPhone and Jeff Han? I recently gave a lecture on touch technology at the University of Salzburg, Austria. I wanted to start my talk by going back to the roots. So I (image-)googled the word "touch" expecting to find images of mothers with babies or perhaps pornography. Instead my search returned pictures of devices equipped with touch technology - over 58,000,000.00 of them!! Has the word "touch" become synonomous with "touch technology"?

I am surprised how fast it trickled into the public conciousness, especially since touch technology only uses a small fraction of our actual sense of touch. The abilities to sense temperature, shape, degrees of softness, texture, pain or the position of your muscles and joints are not playing any part in touch technology so far. A slick surface provides little haptic feedback which for example makes typing difficult.

At this year's Cebit convention, T-Mobile had an multi-touch installation, that was part Minority Report, part Jeff Han Screen and part vertical MS Surface "wall". In this video people seem so bored with the content itself. In fact they are not dealing with the data at all. How long will it take for the novelty of scaling and turning objects to wear off? What kind of interesting public application could this offer?

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