Posted by: Jack | May 28, 2008

Windows 7 – Multi-Touch Interface

Just watched a video-demo of the next Windows OS due to release in late 2009. It seems Microsoft’s pride and joy for this iteration is their multi-touch technology: touch screens which respond to multiple points of contact (yes, just like on the iPhone).

I’m not sure how they’re conducting market research if they came to the conclusion that this technology would be a big selling point. The key components of a physical, input user interface (keyboard, mouse, touch-screen) are the speed and intuitiveness of communicating information to the computer. Any aspect of an interface which reduces these factors ensures that the interface will not be accepted. Even the mouse, an excellent means of interacting with a graphical user interface, has the significant downfall of taking one hand away from the keyboard, hence the very common implementation of keyboard shortcuts whenever possible.

Let’s look at a few ways in which the new multi-touch interface is bound to fail:

  • Skin is oily. I don’t want to finish off every use of my computer with a cleaning session.
  • Try reaching both of your arms to your screen(s) right now and hold them there for fifteen seconds. Notice anything?
  • Imagine a practical application in which more than two simultaneous points of contact would be useful (aside from Microsoft’s demo app which allows you to play a piano via touch-screen)…yeah, I can’t really think of one either.
  • Forget the last point and imagine that you are doing something that uses three points of contact. Try putting each index finger on your screen. Now, with any remaining digit, go through the motions of dragging something across the screen. Yeah, my fingers are attached to each other too.
  • To overcome the problems discovered in the last point, you could start with the thumb and index finger of one hand and then do the drag with the other hand. Now, with the hypothetical photo your thumb and finger are resizing, enlarge it to fill the screen.
  • Put your two index fingers on the screen again. Getting annoyed yet?
  • But for real, put them on the screen. Can you see your clock? How about the buttons in your task bar? I don’t know about you but I get annoyed when my mouse cursor obscures a single character of text.
  • Another app featured in the demo was an online map service. With multi-touch, zooming-in is as easy as putting two fingers on the screen and spreading them apart; a vast improvement over the outdated double-click or turn of the mouse-wheel, right?
  • Imagine you just spent over $200 on Windows 7. You get everything installed on your current system, open up Windows Picture and Fax Viewer to resize a recent photo, reach to the screen and go through the motions (literally) and…nothing happens. You spend some time ensuring that the drivers are installed correctly but still no results. Oh wait, that’s right! Your monitor(s) aren’t touch-screens. No big deal, you just spend $10/screen to recycle your old ones and another measly $1000+ to replace them with touch-screens. Problem solved.

My suggestion: stick with what already works and if you must, take the money you’ve saved and buy a piano.

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Responses

  1. Windows 7 – Multi-Touch Interface .Thanks for nice post.I added to my twitter.


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