New Jeff Han Video – Multi Touch UI | The Last Minute Blog
It’s looking pretty good. I was a little saddened to see them resorting to menus and hotspots, though it was probably inevitable. The magic of the early MT demos was that you could simply touch the screen and the computer would have enough information from your fingers to know what you meant to do — move vs. zoom vs. rotate, for example. The holy grail of GUI design is a completely mode-less system, where you don’t need to be in "edit" mode vs. "drag" mode and the number of tools is minimal. But now that they’re doing much more complicated tasks, like windowing and overlaying data, the controls get more complicated too.
Ultimately, the big question for Multi-Touch wall-screens like this is more ergonomics than aesthetics. In a vertical mode, are you comfortable waving your arms, unsupported, for hours at a time. The demos they do certainly look tiring with all that arm waving. In a desk-mode, it would be easier, but then our elbows might be resting on the screen, which needs to be addressed. And, as Han says, 3D is hard. And 3D, to me, is the way to go.
Personally, I think the 3D analog to Multi-Touch is the future, where Multi-Touch may merely extend the life of the 2D "windows and icons" metaphor until that arrives. In true a 3D desktop (not to be confused with Vista, Aqua, or any of the Linux 3D-window-dressing UIs), you can simply grab objects with one or both hands, manipulate them, activate them, and use them as tools. The "modes" for a scissor object are pretty simple: if the scissor is closed, it can push things. If it’s open, it can cut them.
That’s not to say I don’t want Multi-Touch yesterday. I just ordered one of those Lenovo X60 tablet/laptops to try out.
[Update: I got the new laptop today. Though the pen interface is very nice, their claim of "MultiTouch" is highly deceptive — you can’t properly register touches in two or more places at the same time, as with any other "MultiTouch" device (iPhone, Han’s stuff, etc..). So you can use your index finger, or your thumb, but not both, which means I’m now using my middle finger. Price-wise, this alleged feature didn’t add too much, so that alone isn’t a deal killer. It’s a decent computer otherwise. But for some reason, getting this magic ‘MultiTouch’ feature required going with low XGA vs. better SXGA+ screen resolution, which is quite irritating in hindsight. That’s what I get for getting excited about technology. Update2: Because I know you’re all on the edge of your seat over this, I do give Lenovo points for accepting my return without the usual 15% restocking fee. So I may consider one of their non-multi-touch laptops in the future.]