Where next for multitouch?

April 1st, 2010 in .Blogs .News & Events
Bobby O’Reilly
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Here’s a funny thing. Back when ASUS started putting multitouch mousepads on its EeePC series laptops – around the time of the 901 to be precise – a lot of people dismissed two fingered control as a gimmick.

Now it’s almost impossible to find a notebook without a multitouch pad. Slowly but surely we’re learned the benefits of a doubling up our digits for directing the cursor around the desktop. A whole new language of gestures like pinch and zoom have become second nature. When I turn on a new laptop that doesn’t have two finger scrolling enabled by default, it’s as much an anachronism as if I’d been asked to boot into Windows 3.1.

What’s really interesting, though, is the sudden explosion of multitouch screens that have appeared over the last few months. Now, I’ll admit that a having touch control on a desktop monitor isn’t quite as compelling as it is on a phone, since you have to lean over your keyboard to use the screen and contort yourself into uncomfortable positions. But in certain circumstances – for example a keyboardless all-in-one, like the EeeTop – it’s genius.

Laptops, like the EeePC T101MT are even better. The screen is already closer to your fingers, and touching a hyperlink directly is always going to beat moving the mouse when web browsing.

You’ll be surprised at how easily pointing and clicking becomes pointing and pushing. It really doesn’t take much practice to start feeling more natural than using a mouse. Believe it or not, I’ve actually used Windows 7 on-screen keyboard to touch type using a modern multitouch screen, they’re that good.

What we’re lacking, though, is a definitive multitouch application on the desktop. So far, there hasn’t been any software released that uses touch input to do a job better than it could have been done using a keyboard and mouse. Doing it just as well as isn’t good enough – convincing people to give up the habit of a computing lifetime is going to require more than that. All eyes, of course, are on a certain multitouch pad that’s arriving soon – but you’d be wrong to think that innovation only comes from one quarter.

Look at the NX90, for example. Not only does it have two multitouch mousepads, but ASUS’ R&D team has come up with an interface which sits on top of Windows and and works with them. Swipe the left pad for a menu on the left hand side of the screen, and the right pad to open up a different set of controls on the other side.

People aren’t afraid of change, they just need to be convinced that it’s worthwhile. There are better ways of interacting with our computers than the traditional desktop model, and they almost all involve some sort of multitouch. We just need to get them off of the conceptual drawing board, and into our everday PCs.

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