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Touch Interaction - Multi-Touch: An Evolution

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Apple has drastically revolutionised the way in which people interact with machines, starting with the iPhone. Of course touch technology did not just appear out of thin air. Its roots go as far back as the 1940s

In 1994, Bruce Tognazzini launched a promotional video with his vision of the year 2004. His speculation: on 16 November 2004, Lady Diana would become a member of the British House of Lords. Unfortunately, he was proven wrong since the princess died in the summer of 1997. Of course, the main premise behind Tognazzini's "Starfire" is today a reality. As noted by human interface experts, the video was not so much about British royalty but more about the interaction of people and computers with the help of tablets and giant multi-touch monitors. Of course the breakthrough in touch technology only came to the general public in 2007 with Apple's first iPhone. But the fact that Tognazzini could predict the far-reaching vision 13 years before it happened is neither genius nor coincidence, since the technology can be traced back to the year 1948. At that time, Canadian physicist Hugh Le Caine dealt not only with the radar and atomic technology but also with electronic music instruments. As of 1948, he built the what will known as the first synthesizer of the world and was equipped with a type of touchpad. The touch-sensitive controls could be used, for example, to continuously change the acoustic color. For that the trombone used a capacitive touch technology.

Here, the sensors identified the electrification current in an electrical field which is generated by a touch. This principle incidentally is used even today, among other things by the iPhone.

Multi-Touch: An Evolution

 

Description: Evolution and the ipad


Yet it would be years later till other scientists started contending with touch technology. Without a powerful and affordable end device, however, the new control concept was hardly practical. Nevertheless, in the mid-60's IBM and the Bell Laboratories involved themselves into the technology. In 1982, a new type of touch system was developed at the University of Toronto: it responded not just to "a single touch but to multiple touch simultaneously", writes the Microsoft researcher scientist Bill Buxton, on his home page. Even before that there were attempts to make touch-devices accessible to the general public. In1972, the teaching computer PLATO IV was used in schools and universities. In this, students and undergraduates entered answers to the computer's questions via a touch on the monitor screen.

As early as in 1983, Hewlett-Packard offered its PC HP-150 with integrated touchscreen to private users. But the sales numbers remained low. The laptops of the 90's with touchpad had more success. Who was the first to come up with it is even today debatable. Psion admittedly launched a laptop with a touchpad in 1989. However, the user had to tap at a specific point to move the cursor forwards unlike later on when it was usually done with a finger-swipe. This technology called GlidePoint was initially undertaken by Apple and was implemented from 1994. From this point on the race towards portable end devices started off. Thus in 1993, the first smartphone of the world was introduced on the market: the Simon by IBM and Bell was equipped with an interface that was controlled via single touch. Apple tried its luck in the same year with a portable mini-computer called Newton. The Newton is now known as the first Personal Digital Assistant (PDA). This device category was not successful before US Robotics placed the Pilot in

As early as in 1983, Hewlett-Packard offered its PC HP-150 with integrated touchscreen to private users. But the sales numbers remained low. The laptops of the 90's with touchpad had more success. Who was the first to come up with it is even today debatable. Psion admittedly launched a laptop with a touchpad in 1989. However, the user had to tap at a specific point to move the cursor forwards unlike later on when it was usually done with a finger-swipe. This technology called GlidePoint was initially undertaken by Apple and was implemented from 1994. From this point on the race towards portable end devices started off. Thus in 1993, the first smartphone of the world was introduced on the market: the Simon by IBM and Bell was equipped with an interface that was controlled via single touch. Apple tried its luck in the same year with a portable mini-computer called Newton. The Newton is now known as the first Personal Digital Assistant (PDA). This device category was not successful before US Robotics placed the Pilot in

1996, later renamed as Palm, on the market. Yet Apple won the jackpot: the development from the Newton to the iPhone (2007) and even to the iPad (2010) was quite apparent -technologically speaking, neither of the two was a revolution but just an important progression on touch technology. Apple boss Steve Jobs had simply landed on the right technology at the right time — much to the chagrin of Nokia, the world market leader for many years. In the field where the "iGod" was immortalised, there was where Microsoft founder Bill Gates failed miserably: the development of his very own tablet. On the other hand he had more success via another strategy. In 2007, Microsoft launched a powerful computer with touch monitor. The surface recognized the gestures of multiple individuals and was thought to be ideal for use in shops and restaurants. From then on the development went blow upon blow: Touch navigators are just as wide spread as touch operated machines. There are even touch cook tops. And the future holds a lot of promise. Andreas Butz, a professor of media informatics at the University of Munich believes that in a few years there will be touch-sensitive sensors which will be able to give different acknowledgements to the actions of the user. Sometime monitors would depend on heat given off of a contact. More and more touch surfaces would be implemented into the everyday: even today developers are working on touch-interactive floors and walls. Further developments of the touch technology would even surpass the visions of Tognazzini's "Starfire".

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