Saturday, 25 February 2006

A glimpse of the future: the multi-touch screen

One of the fun things about working in high tech is that you'll occasionally get a look at something new that you know is going to have a big impact in the future. I got that feeling when I first saw a development version of HyperCard at Apple (back when they called it WildCard).

Today I had that same feeling when I saw a video called Multi-Touch Interaction Research. It was produced by researchers at NYU who are exploring what you can do with a tabletop video touchscreen that can track separate inputs from every finger that touches the screen.

Some of the demos are just fun geeky stuff, such as an interactive lava lamp where you can move blobs around and merge them. But several other demos show people manipulating 2D and 3D images and maps faster and more fluidly than you could possibly do with a conventional graphical interface. I could picture someone using a system like this for page layout, architecture, or industrial design. It would also be fascinating to see if you could lay out a relational database visually and use finger touches to navigate it quickly.

Be sure you watch the whole video; it gets more interesting as it goes on. The lead researcher has done some other interesting stuff as well, which you can read about here. Check out the touch-sensitive LEDs.

Although the table top screen in the video is cool, I'd settle for having this interface on a tablet computer.

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