David Pogue: The Multi-Touch Screen

Here are some interesting comments from David Pogue of the New York Times about Apple’s much touted (internally of course) multi-touch screen and more importantly, the guy who is pushing the limits in multi-touch.

Today, a few more notes from my visit two weeks ago to the TED conference

Apple garnered many oohs and ahhs when it demonstrated the touch-screen interface of its new iPhone cellphone/iPod, which is scheduled for release in June. This “multi-touch” screen, Apple says, breaks new ground by permitting more than one finger to touch the screen simultaneously.

Now, the truth is, the maximum number of fingers that the iPhone recognizes is exactly 2. And even then, you use this feature in only one instance: to enlarge or reduce a photo, Web page or e-mail message on the screen; it’s not like there are all kinds of multi-touch gestures to learn. So “multi-touch interface” might be stretching it a bit.

Even so, as soon as I saw Steve Jobs demonstrate this feature at the Macworld Expo in January, I immediately had a sense of déjà vu. This was a miniature version of NYU researcher Jeff Han’s own multi-touch interface, which I wrote about in this blog last year. You can see a video of last year’s software here.

After the Jobs demo, I called Jeff Han, fully expecting to hear how angry he was that Apple had stolen his idea without permission or consultation (it’s happened before).

Instead, he knew all about Apple’s project. He didn’t say that Apple bought his technology, nor that Apple stole it—only that he’d known what had happened, and that there was a lot he wasn’t allowed to say.

Anyway, he returned to TED this year for a new presentation, showing how far the multi-touch technology had progressed (hint: a lot). He also set up his eight-foot touch screens in the TED common area, so anyone could try it.

You can see Jeff Han narrating this demo in this video, although with bad camerawork. Or you can see Han’s official, wordless demo here.

In any case, I spent quite awhile trying it out, and it’s spectacular. The visual response to your touch is immediate and satisfying, and there are lots of multi-touch gestures that work. One of the sample programs featured an ever-expanding “family tree” of every known species in nature, complete with photos; by dragging and expanding, you could zoom in infinitely to the branch of this massive tree that you were interested in. The photo-manipulation and mapping modules were also amazing.

I suspect you’ll be hearing a lot more about Jeff Han, Apple and multi-touch interfaces in the next couple of years.

read more | digg story


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Filed under Innovation, Introspection, Observation, Tech

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