back to article Microsoft Research man: It all starts with touch

Windows 8 is Microsoft’s addition to the growing tide pool of touch input for computers. Redmond's new OS joins Apple's iOS and Google’s Android in moving beyond keyboard and mouse and into touch, slide, swipe and pinch. Touch has silently become part of the DNA of computing. Now, though, we can expect manufacturers to push the …

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Anonymous Coward

"Touch-based input has existed for years, but as a niche option: usually on a screen 30 inches or larger in size"

Touch existed long before 30 inch screens were available! I remember touchscreen CRT monitors in use in factories back in the 1990s; the main advantage at that point was that a touchscreen was easier to integrate into rack mounted PLC gear and was relatively easy to build as a sealed solution that could resist water and dirt. Keyboards tended to get gunked up, lost, or destroyed.

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Anonymous Coward

Also...

While not strictly touch, there were several CAD systems in the 70s(IIRC) which used lightpens and vector monitors. They didn't last that long because constant use of a pen against a vertical screen wasn't very nice for the carpal tunnel, however use of stylus against a non-vertical screen has persisted in many areas.

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And more importantly, John McClane used it in Die Hard 1.

No touchcreen in the lobby, Gruber would have got away clean.or something.

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Yes - I was working on ABB process plant simulators around, I guess, 1990 and they used touch screens to select and adjust pumps and the like.

The screens must have been about 15" or so, but there were normally at least 6 of them on a control desk.

ttfn

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(touch on CRT Monitors)

It goes back further - to the mid-80s in one particular instance that I was involved with, where the keyboard was replaced with a touch overlay on the CRT.

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Anonymous Coward

However, for the majority of commercial computer users, the touch screen cannot come close to equaling the keyboard for data entry. I have used both. I can type a one page letter in 30 seconds or so using a keyboard and I cannot even come close using a touch screen method of entry.

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touchscreen CRT monitors in use in factories back in the 1990s

Indeed. Baker Perkins was using them in 1985. 20 inch. summat like 2100x1500

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Anonymous Coward

"Touch-based input has existed for years"

I've been married 20 years and I can say from experience that 'touch-based input' now happens once a week.

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Meh

It's not really touch

Touch interfaces don't really exist, what we have at the moment are merely flat "pointing" devices.

For example, if a surface had the possibility of changing its characteristics such as being warm or cold, jagged or smooth, undulating or flat, soft or hard then that would start to become interesting. The surfaces could then be considered as being touch surfaces. Our fingers are extremely sensitive sensors, so there is a lot of room for improvement still to be made

Haptic surfaces only produce small vibrations for the moment, maybe they will develop. Maybe they could develop surfaces that react differently in relation to the part of your body that is currently in contact with it........

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Re: It's not really touch

Force feedback in 3D, in 3D space

http://www.sensable.com/products-claytools-system.htm

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Anonymous Coward

so long as we DONT have....

electric shocks

or

nasty smells

then interactive technology will be just fine (its not really touch technology, it is after all a flat 1D 'capacitative sensor' - or switch)

and yes, they've been out since the 'dark ages' pre-1970

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Trollface

Squeek

MS trying to make change for change sake and jump start the old business model of new OS = new hardware = happy vendors and lots of $$$

The fact is the mouse works. Granted I wouldn't go back to the RSI inducing brick of a mouse that came with my Amiga 500 (although Apple would probably sue the shape of it now) but a modern ergonomic mouse is just fine.

Just like the accelerator pedal on my car, the handle on my door, and eating with a knife and fork. If MS made cutlery they would want us all to be rubbing our faces into our plates.

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Fun

For a trip down memory lane, or a game of What The Heck Does That Do, Bill Buxton's collection of Input Devices:

http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/people/bibuxton/buxtoncollection/

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Linux

What I found interesting

is the assertion that it takes 20 years for a new product to become commercialised. Isn't the usual term of a patent about that long? Whilst keeping in mind that correlation != causation, I wonder to what degree the monopolistic control by one company of a technology by patent, holds back the good ideas of other companies or inventors for that period - because the inventors or other companies can't afford or don't want to be encumbered by restrictive license agreements.

If ever an argument could be made for open source vs patent control of everything this could very well be it. If the reason that technology waits 20 years is even partly a result of waiting for patents to expire, then surely that is an argument for the patent system being a suppressor of innovation, rather than a promoter of it?

I'm not saying do away with patents altogether, but maybe reducing the maximum term to something more reasonable (say 5 - 8 years at max) would help things along a bit.

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Re: What I found interesting

Except that these days it takes about 5-8 years to get a patent:.

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Re: What I found interesting

Even if it does, simply have it that the patent period begins from the time of grant rather than the time of application. So that wouldn't be a problem then, would it?

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I would argue that any patent that goes unused is lost, and they are are not transferable from their original owner.

I think that it would also be a good idea that companies are not allowed to patent an idea - but I can see a lot of companies getting upset that they need to look after their staff properly.

ttfn

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"be a good idea that companies are not allowed to patent an idea "

Ideas are NOT patentable - at least in sensible countries- only implementations are patentable. I can't patent an idea for treating a disease for example but I can patent a chemical entity that has some effect that might be useful in treating that disease, even if it turns out to be not so useful in practice due to side-effects or unrealistic doses or whatever.

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Sorry but

Except for use in games consoles and the like I see no way anything will replace the keyboard and mouse for normal/business use until we get direct input via an implant into the brain.

Too much can't be done without a direct impact on others around you.

Flapping yours arms, flicking your hands, talking at it, gurning your face due to a beard etc etc

just looking at the adverts for xbox with people flapping their arms to change channel makes the whole thing look stupid and a real risk to knocking a hot coffee out of someones hand.

If they want to change one thing that will make a real difference in how we work and interact on simple stuff like email etc then all they need to do is develop a screen that you can adjust the focus on so that people like me can take off their glasses and refocus the screen instead...........

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Re: Sorry but

I agree. There is also the simple fact that keyboard and mouse is incredibly convenient and ergonomic. I can work away at my desk all day with no RSI issues, but 30 minutes on a touchscreen tablet and my hands are in agony.

I've used touch input on an array of devices, the only use case I've found where touch is better is for web suring on my phone. However, that is because I don't have a mouse that plugs into my phone and the screen is small. Waving your hands around on a large screen is much slower than moving a mouse a few millimetres.

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Re: Sorry but

Kinect people flapping arms is because the shipped technology isn't good enough to track fingers, only arms. Once the device can recognise finger positions, you no longer will need the big movements. It will be able to read sign languages.

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Trollface

Re: Sorry but

@Brangdon

Digitus Impudicus...?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Sorry but

"I can work away at my desk all day with no RSI issues"

Give it another 20 years...

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"... touch, slide, swipe and pinch."

Seems pervy for some reason.

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Anonymous Coward

"30-year-old mould"?

Yes, that would explain my reflexive disgust every time I'm obliged to use Windows.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "30-year-old mould"?

oooh, aren't you hardcore.

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Linux

It all starts with touch?

Yes... for something you can hold in one hand and touch with the other.

It isn't easy to do that with the monitors that go with desktop computers. How can Microsoft have forgotten where its bread and butter comes from? Has some sort of hysteria affected all the decision makers?

Microsoft, welcome to the graveyard of bad corporate decision making.

It would be nice to say its a chance for the penguin, but the corporate world loves its own commercial corporate bastards --- there will soon be others along to dance on MS's grave

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WTF?

Clearly shows the fallout of the Ballmer years, just how badly MS is damaged and...

...just how hopelessly clueless people, living in their own bubble, are setting trends at the top.

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Facepalm

It all starts with touch

Sadly for Microsoft and their Windows 8 dream/delusion, it probably all ends with touch.

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Touch-based input has existed for years, but as a niche option

And it will continue exist for many years, as a niche option. For some specialised applications, portable tablets, EPOS, equipment control panels, etc.

There is no way touch screen can replace KBM unless they just use a separate tablet connected to the main computer as the keyboard and then it will still be inferior.

MSFT has come up with a bad idea and now they are desperately trying to convince themselves that the idea is good because, bad or not, they don't have any others!

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MBY

I don't understand the fuzz

I read so much about Win8, and there is tones of reviews and comments when it come to calling it a desktop unfriendly OS...so thanks to DreamSparc access at my university I have downloaded the OS and have been using it since Friday , and I LOVE IT!

I use it on my Laptop with no touch interface, a good - meanwhile old - Dell Latitude E6400. I wouldn't want to go back to anything else. It works fast smooth and the experience is great. In no way to i think that the OS is limited when it comes to using it with keyboard and mouse! Quite the contrary it was very intuitive and i had a fast learning curve. Now i might not be the oldest of all PC users, but being 30 I am not quite the Ipad Generation either, but i started my PC experience with an Amiga 500.

For me its clear, the new interface is a great substitution to the lame and out-date start button - PEOPLE GET OVER IT. When i use the desktop i am much more productive switching to the new start menu or the new find menu and starting my desired Program / App. The entire Charms bar and general corner storage doesn't intrude usual work flow! Thanks to great short cuts, i can access everything in no time, and multimonitor setup is just great! As i run my Laptop mostly in Doc-Stations i always have multimonitor setups and Win 8 is just beautiful on it!

I think people should embrace the change, and stop whining about it! Try it and you will see things arent the way everyone is trying to tell you they are! I think 90% of the people complaining either are totally lacking any understanding for evolution or are simply not capable of quickly learning simple new tasks ... conservative mind set. For once MS has gone a totally new way, introducing something truly new and it seems like people just dont understand it.

As to the Windows UI apps, they seem to be more leisure oriented. None of them claim to be highly productive! for productivity you have the desktop! and the nice thing is on dual monitor you can have them run side by side in full screen. I think its a great OS and i think MS has chosen the best way from all. I am very excited to get myself a win 8 pro tablet, a new laptop and a win (winphone 8) 8 based phone . I like the idea of an eco system, and i like the deep efficient esthetics MS has created with windows 8.

It is sad to see so many people incapable of appreciating the functionality. As to my profession, I am a researcher in Engineering sciences, so my work on the PC is heavily multitasking and i have always a crowded desktop, but win 8 has made accessing programs, and working more fun and fast. Further more, the fact that my E6400 does such a great job at running the OS is a great step forward for a company which always needed more powerhungry PCs for their next Gen OS.

A GREAT APPLAUSE for MS, i am very thankful for their new OS and i hope people will quickly learn to appreciate such technological beauty and the idea behind an Electronic/entertainment Ecosystem. Further to be able to think in two separate dimensions, the leisure based Tablet-Phone world and the Efficient and Creative Desktop world. And understand the great job that has been done for them to coexist!!!

People are willing to pay 700$ for an Ipad but they complain about getting an WinPro for 800$ makes no sense to me...

At this point i do want to point out that some modifications and updates would be very welcome:

- better VPN - still no good integration of IPsec protocol

- better link between desktop and Windows 8 apps (mail, share....)

Otherwise i love it and WIndows 8 Ecosystem is the way to go - Good job MS

P.S: i used to hate MS and was holding on to my Amiga for years. When i had to let go of Amiga I used Windows but never liked it ... first 95, then horrible ME then 2000, which was nice...but i never really liked it until Windows 8 - i was just a user until now, but now i actually feel like this is what i was waiting for to like and enjoy using since my Amiga OS was buried.

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Re: I don't understand the fuzz

Clap! Clap! Clap! An excellent piece of astroturf!

But remember, accessing programs is *never* fun, no matter what they are or on what platform. That bit of corporate speak is a dead giveaway and you should strive to avoid it in your future fake grass-root endeavours.

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Stop

Re: I don't understand the fuzz

While I agree that he writes like a marketroid, you still just breached the House Rules.

Again. You keep doing that - insisting that anyone who disagrees with you is paid by Microsoft.

I, for the record, am a technical architect currently on a contract with a Local Government authority in the West Country. So don't even think about it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I don't understand the fuzz

Upvoted because you had the nerve to post it without a troll or a joke icon

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MBY

Re: I don't understand the fuzz

Frankly, I wish i would be paid for this review! I am not a marketroid...i like the names you guys make up!

The text comes from the heart!

Its sad however that most people read positive reviews with such prejudice! Again the style of taking position to such posts shows the level of maturity and objectiveness the topic Windows is approached!

The reason this is my first post, is that i have been reading a lot on Win 8 and felt like saying something about it once! You will surely see this text poping-up at other forums too.

cheers

P.S: grow up people!

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FAIL

Re: I don't understand the fuzz

eadon - it ain't stalking if in every comment thread on a Microsoft product - and I work with those so I'm interested - there you are, saying how shit and evil it is.

Every. Single. One.

Anyone would think somebody paid you to go through all those threads putting out as much negative astroturf as possible. No me, of course. I just think you're an idiot.

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C'mon

If you can't take a joke you shouldn't have joined.

Astroturf or not - your corporate yakspeak missive was hilariously unnatural, just get over it.

I never said you were paid - you did. I guess you know better.

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Re: C'mon

"I never said you were paid - you did. I guess you know better."

You called them an astroturfer.

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Re: C'mon

There are paid and unpaid varieties.

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MBY

Re: C'mon

i am fine, call me astroturfer whatever...the funny thing is since i know i am not advertising anything and i know my true opinion and feelings about the system, i actually begin to question your motives and true objectiveness about making claims and judging other people. why is it so hard to Respect other peoples opinion? I am not saying you should agree with my opinion, rather respect it and if you want argue against or for it in a professional manner. it seems to be easier to simply pull out the conspiracy card and look for marketing agents of MS. If MS had good marketing agents, there wouldn't be so many apple-fan boys. now those guys (apple) they got some good marketing going! Ms, nokia and that bunch has no clue on how to sell their innovation.

Cheers

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Re: C'mon

1) My motives are pretty clear and transparent - I saw a message with what I saw as false enthusiasm and exaggerated emotions and said so. There will be no profit in steering the discussion towards my motives - the issue was the OP.

2) MS and innovation - I followed (have been forced to follow) MSFT from the point of view of a user of their products since early 1990's and I can confidently say that no innovation has ever come from them. Borrowing other people's ideas and implementing them in the most sloppy way possibly in order to stomp their ground and fend off potential competition - I've seen plenty of this. Genuine innovation - only in the cases where they bought other teams and companies and for as long as those have not been fully subsumed into MSFT culture, which is based on making products that are mediocre enough to just about work but not more.

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Re: C'mon

"1) My motives are pretty clear and transparent - I saw a message with what I saw as false enthusiasm and exaggerated emotions and said so. There will be no profit in steering the discussion towards my motives - the issue was the OP."

No, it's entirely relevant to bring your own motivations into this because the question is why you are motivated to accuse other people of being dishonest as a way of attacking what they say (aka ad hominem). Why is it that you can let vent to your preferences and you expect people to believe that you really mean this stuff, but when others do, you accuse them of "astroturfing"? You've no evidence of astroturfing, merely that you disagree with what they say. It would be okay if you instead examined what they wrote and pointed out flaws in it, but instead you attack their integrity.

Your mini-rant containing: "I can confidently say that no innovation has ever come from them. Borrowing other people's ideas and implementing them in the most sloppy way possibly", seems pretty silly to me when MS have had the best products in many areas over long periods of time.

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Re: C'mon

"You've no evidence of astroturfing, merely that you disagree with what they say"

I did not agree nor disagree with what they say - merely with how they said it.

Do you have evidence that no astroturfing took place? You're welcome to present it before further argument.

"MS have had the best products in many areas over long periods of time"

Oh. Not in the universe I currently reside in.

I'm tired of this non-discussion of MSFT. May we please switch to Apple-bashing or something?

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P_0

From the article..

...“We are seeing technologies coming to productisation more quickly because companies want to have the edge, so from a consumer point of view it’s an exciting time,” says Izadi, who jointly leads the interactive 3D technologies group at Microsoft Research Cambridge.

Productisation? I'm finding it hard to imaginize what that is.

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The problems with touch interfaces in a nutshell

Touch interfaces are hard to discover, there are many ways to move your hand, and unless you try them all, it's hard to find them.

Touch interfaces also aren't very expressive. You need a lot of gestures to do things you would otherwise do with a few commands.

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