It’s remarkable what a difference accurate multi-touch can make for interface design, especially when the surface is scaled relative to the human body (sorry, iPhone). Jeff Han’s work, widely spread around the blogosphere, is significant because his team has really rethought the whole interface. Gestures for moving things around in 3D space just make perfect sense. The only bad news is that large-scale back-projected screens take up space, and make possible a number of implementation details that wouldn’t work (for the time being) on smaller displays. The good news is, this kind of work could soon be finding its way into performances. Right now, live visualists still focus on the DJ mixer as their primary performance metaphor — a surprisingly deep resource, to be sure, but likely only scratching the surface of what could be possible.

Via Mac Rumors

Half of you readers right now I think are at NYU, so, ahem, feel free to fill us in. (Or join in a chorus of “Our Dear Old NYU”, if you like. Darnit, CUNY needs a song.)

  • rupert

    Looks amazing, but looks like they still need to find a 'need' for it. In the examples, all they are doing is moving pictures and zooming in and out of maps, not truly useful. I can see it being useful in niche areas, like medical research to visualise protein structure, beyond that, its just looks cool…

  • True, although people could have said the same thing as the mouse began to displace the joystick in the early 80s (at which point the latter was more popular for the same tasks). On the other hand, you can't really paint with a joystick — and you can do all of these things, I agree.

    Now watching it again … the one truly unique function seems to be collaborative use; that's the one thing I can't imagine doing via another interface. I want to see more use of music, ideally via a different interface. You know, we're so immersed in the world of UIs built around mice and screens that it's very hard to think beyond them. It'll be interesting to see if someone does find a need in the future.

  • Personally, I actually think there is a need for it. Right now, traditional means of interacting with computers have really relied on a mouse (or other single-point input device) and a keyboard. Thus, all applications that are currently being written have only those things to consider when being developed.

    By moving to something like this very large-scale multi-touch device, we can really begin thinking of application development in a completely different way. Suddenly gestures become important in addition to thinking beyond the single-point focus which dominates computing today.

    Granted, I don't think this technology will make a better Word or Excel experience, but from a creative application perspective, I see this opening up worlds of opportunity while bringing users that much closer to communicating / interfacing more fluently with computing.

  • Right, but the question was whether these demo apps were truly different, and so far I can see most of them working with a mouse (albeit perhaps less easily).

    That said, we're removing the question of context: this is a large display, a collaborative display, and one that could be installed in places where keyboards and mice are totally impractical.

    So there are still very compelling needs. To your point, though, Mike, I think this demo only scratches the surface of what's possible in application design. Given the progress Han and co. have made so far, maybe we'll see more as this evolves.

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  • Surgeon

    Im preety sure this is massively useful. For many people that still live in the Microsoft Dream World i believe it may be too complicated or even useless. The applications for this are just endless… The new apple iPhone is a good example of the use of this technology of Multitouch display… The future is without too much buttons and handles, but yes; clever Design finely adapted to us.


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  • Alex

    I think this would be very very useful, as mentioned, especially the medical field as well as graphic design and arts. Currently our minds are locked in the point and click interface, once we break free of this, many applications can become available. For example, a multi touch based Photoshop design, with a tool selection toolbar, etc. could be extremely innovative.

    I'm looking into making my own multi touch device, should obviously not as elaborate or large and touch sensitive screens are also expensive, so I will be looking for an alternative

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