- Rather than responding to the presence of a single finger, multi-touch computer screens can follow the instructions of many fingers simultaneously.
- A wall-size screen developed by Perceptive Pixel can respond to as many as 10 fingers or multiple hands. Microsoft and Mitsubishi are offering smaller, specialized systems for hotels, stores, and engineering and design firms.
- Multi-touch computing could one day free us from the mouse as our primary computer interface, the way the mouse freed us from keyboards.
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When Apple’s iPhone hit the streets last year, it introduced so-called multi-touch screens to the general public. Images on the screen can be moved around with a fingertip and made bigger or smaller by placing two fingertips on the image’s edges and then either spreading those fingers apart or bringing them closer together. The tactile pleasure the interface provides beyond its utility quickly brought it accolades. The operations felt intuitive, even sensuous. But in laboratories around the world at the time of the iPhone’s launch, multi-touch screens had vastly outgrown two-finger commands. Engineers have developed much larger screens that respond to 10 fingers at once, even to multiple hands from multiple people.
It is easy to imagine how photographers, graphic designers or architects—professionals who must manipulate lots of visual material and who often work in teams—would welcome this multi-touch computing. Yet the technology is already being applied in more far-flung situations in which anyone without any training can reach out during a brainstorming session and move or mark up objects and plans.