Stories
Slash Boxes
Comments

News for nerds, stuff that matters

Touch-based Handhelds Turned Inside Out

Posted by CowboyNeal on Friday October 12, @02:27AM
from the good-touch-bad-touch dept.
holy_calamity writes "Mitsubishi and Microsoft have made a prototype PSP-like handheld operated using a touch interface on the back — the idea is to give a firmer hold, prevent obscuring the screen and allow greater accuracy than the iPhone and others. The users fingers are shown as shadows on the screen so they can see what they're doing, making the device look transparent. As a video shows, it's far from market ready, but the design principle seems sound."

Related Stories

The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.

Touch-based Handhelds Turned Inside Out 140 Comments More | Login | Reply /

11 Full
95 Abbreviated
54 Hidden
More | Login | Reply
Loading ... Please wait.
  • Playing to the market

    (Score:3, Interesting)
    Shadowy fingers behind the back of screen images should be a big advance for Porn Digital Assistants. I predict a win for this one.
      • 0 to godwin's law in .5 sec. I do so wish that was a record but sadly, no.
          • Yeah way to back up your arguments. What's being religious got to do with being a bigot anyway? Or are you saying that people aren't allowed to consider certain practices wrong if their religion forbids it (not eating certain types of meat, not conducting in certain kinds of activity etc).
          • "Godwin's Law" is a way [...] to lessen the importance of the Holocaust by diminishing the evil of Hitler.
            Actually, it _prevents_ that by arguing against frivolous comparisons to such a terrible evil.
              • Regardless of anything else, you've failed to make your point for one specific reason - you never explained HOW AndroidCat is a religious bigot and/or hate group leader, for those to whom it isn't so "well-known" - a link to some evidence would have gone far. As it is, for those who don't already know how horrible he is (ASSuming, and that's a big ASSumption, that you're sincere in your ASSessment), you come off as a troll.

                *clicks AndroidCat's homepage link to try to get some idea of what you're on about* ...Oh.

                Scientology.

                nevermind. Let me know when your "religion" stops charging huge piles of cash for enlightenment, why don't you?
                • As for the claims that the religion's beliefs are fake or insincere - well, Scientology certainly is not alone in having hard-to-swallow beliefs. Actually, some of them are quite a bit more plausible than some mainstream religions. But, when the religion was founded by someone whose day job was "Science Fiction author", and the secret meaning of life just so happens to involve wars between extraterrestrial aliens (nevermind that religions keeping their beliefs a secret at all is, you know, just a tad passť), and it just HAPPENS to require handing wads of cash to a centralized organization - well, can you really blame people for rolling their eyes at it?

                  But as far as most people are concerned... It's not the religious beliefs themselves that are a problem (it's no worse than most), it's the organization.
                • In deference to our own little Cotton Mather here, it is possible he or she is merely doing their job.

                  The organization in question here has previously been accused of assigning members to hound those it considers to be unfriendly to itself, both legally and, as in this case, socially. I'd also heard they more or less stopped doing it years ago, but oh well.

                  I personally suggest android cat make a copy of this thread to use in any legal matters they may need to take (such as a restraining order) at a later date.
                  • A restraining order against an anonymous coward on Slashdot? Heh. Almost always, the people assigned to these sorts of duties are doing an "ammends project" to be allowed back "onlines" with the Cthurch of Scientology. They seem to get picked for the nasty jobs because (a) they're deniable as working for Scientology, (b) they're frequently judgment-proof because they have no assets or they're so dubious in sanity that no one would believe any liable and no damages could be proven. (There's also the danger that Scientology would help out in the legal fight in order to make it as time-consuming and expensive for a critic as possible. "The purpose of a lawsuit is to harass", in the words of L. Ron Hubbard.)

                    It's not worth my time because I can do more to help expose the organization in an hour of working on my media references page [primus.ca] than wasting months in court.

                    It's no accident that he Godwin'ed himself immediately. When Scientology starts flinging poo at anyone who dares criticize the "most ethical organization on the planet" (their words), they always reach for Hitler and the Nazis first: Germany [cnn.com] (which is why Cruise had recent troubles there), psychologists and psychiatrists [canada.com], newspapers [lermanet.com], journalists [thesun.co.uk], Germany again [solitarytrees.net] (Bringing your kids along to a Nazi uniformed protest is weird by anyone's standard yes?), and probably a lot more. It's no wonder that some people occasionally fling it back, where it seems to sit better (and when the poo sits...):

                    *"[..] This is nothing compared to what will happen when we start taking SPs out of the government. They are rightly afraid. So don't you be. Tomorrow belongs to us. Inevitably there are bumps in the road."
                    L. Ron Hubbard [youtube.com]
                      • Make fallacious, hero-worshipping appeals to the memes of USENET legends all you like.
                        • I was there in comp.org.eff.talk when Mike Godwin came up with his rule. You're no Mike Godwin.
                        • The critics of Scientology are a vast herd of ornery cats. How do I lead them?
                        • Why doesn't the Church of Scientology let members of the breakaway Free Zone [freezone.org] practice their voluntarily chosen beliefs as they wish?
                        • In spite of Scientolgy's efforts to equate themselves with the Jewish Holocaust, the state of Israel thinks that Scientology is a commercial enterprise rather than a religion. (As do a lot of other countries. [express.co.uk])
                        • Why do the at cause "Homo Novus" Dukes of the Auditor Elite [scientology-asho.org] ubermen of Scientology play the victim card all the time?
                        • Why do all the other leaders of Scientology around David Miscavige keep disappearing?
    • Re:Playing to the market

      (Score:2, Funny)
      by Anonymous Coward
      Funny thing is, that camera behind the device points to dark surface, meaning high contrast levels (and accuracy) can only be achieved if you hands are white. It seems apparent that Microsoft hates niggers or they would have made back-panel white.
      • Re:

        (Score:3, Funny)
        So, they should color the back panel green and hope that certain alien species and plants are the only ones that don't want to play? Or maybe go with blue....and hope that flowers, fish, and birds don't want to play?

        Layne
  • Because...

    (Score:2, Insightful)
    Why would I want to watch a video on a screen I've been touching all day? This is a great idea, on several counts. Hands won't obstruct view of the screen while manipulating, greater accuracy, few fingerprints/scratches.

    Only con I can think of is being

    • Re:

      (Score:3, Interesting)
      You'd only need to orient yourself like that at first, while getting used to the device. With experience I figure it would be reasonable to gain a strong grasp of the spacing. While the tactile feedback in most devices limit what I can compare too, the N
      • ...also you can see your fingers "through" the screen...
      • Re:

        (Score:2, Interesting)
        But the point is that with a DS you can see what you are "touching".

        I understand what you're saying about the fact that eventually you can just "know" where different points are on the control scheme, and I guess that's true to an extent. I just think t

        • You could easily get around this by sensing the heat from your fingertips before it feels the pressure, giving you the shadow before you touch the device. That way you can just hover your finger over it.
    • Re:

      (Score:2)
      Agreed. My only major hang up with my iPhone that can't be easily fixed is that the friggin screen is ALWAYS getting smeared up. I live in a warm weather climate and I have oily skin to boot. I'd really have to try the technology to see whether I could
      • Stop touching yourself.

        Seriously. Palms and fingertips don't sweat or contain oil glands. It's only by touching your face, nose, or other parts of your body that oils begin to accumulate on the fingertips.

        And you might going to the bathroom and washing your hands after you eat.
        • Maybe you can spend the whole day without reflexively preening your hair or scratching an itch. I think most of us can't.

          Anyway, when can we get "thought macro" controlled devices? We already wired up monkeys, rats, humans to control devices by thought. Now lets come up with something that can be safe for long term that achieves something similar.
        • If palms don't sweat then how come sometimes you can leave condensation (that quickly evaporates) on a book cover or desk from your palms? I don't think it's from palming other parts of my body.. :P
        • Where did you get that idea? Your hands and feet are actually the sweatiest parts of your body, and of course they extrude oils, otherwise your skin would be constantly dry and flaky, in fact they are the worst offenders because the skin is thicker there.
        • Warm weather climate - that means more than likely moisture in the air (not always, but a good guess). Even if the hand isn't sweating (which I doubt it true but for the sake of argument will assume is true), there's a good chance that the temperature difference between the hand and the air is enough to provide mild condensation. I know that SOMETHING is going on because I live in a warm climate, I've dried my hands thouroughly, and watched them become moist while doing nothing but sitting there. It's either sweat or condensation

          Layne
      • Get the matte finish screen protector from the Apple store. It's very easy to apply, and is very resistant to fingerprints/oil smudges. Makes a big difference.
        • You're talking about the Power Support one? I almost bought it but resisted because I didn't know anything about it. Good to hear a first hand review- thanks!
    • Actually, as a nearsighted individual, the first words out of my mouth when reading this were:

      "That is... FUCKING GENIOUS"

      I have a Nintendo DS, and one of the things I note about it frequently is that it is hard for me to use the touch screen because of having to put my fingers there, and how close I have to have my eyes to the screen to see. At least in my case, that would make such things useful for me.
      they
      Even a normal person, not having their hands not block part of the screen when using it, should be nice.
    • You can see where your fingers are even when they're not touching the screen. It would probably take a little getting used to, but it's not like you'd be guessing at it even the first time you use it.
    • It'd seem like with the "touching" on the back that you'd need to touch somewhere first to get your orientation, then touch where you want to go.

      That's why it shows finger silhouettes, not just dots for fingertips.

  • Good idea but...

    (Score:5, Insightful)
    by jimboindeutchland (1125659) on Friday October 12, @02:52AM (#20950213)

    While this looks like a great idea and all, I can't help but wonder how this will translate into smaller mobile devices. Something thie size of the iPhone (just to pick a random example ;) doesn't really have space for two hands. If you pick up your own mobile phone and drag your fingers around the back of it, you'll find it a bit more cumbersome than holding your phone in the palm of your hand and touching the front of the device.

    That said, this could be an important development for tablet PC's. From my perspective, it seems tablets suffer from a lack of keyboard input. Sure you can plug in a keyboard, but that kinda defeats the purpose. This looks like it could be the solution to that problem.

    Go these guys!

    • I have a Cingular 8125. I think this device size counts. I tried to find a way to hold it that would allow me to see the front and use my fingers comfortable on the back. Here's what I came up with. Thumb and index fingers on each side, middle fingers used for touch interface. It was quite comfortable and touching the screen did not feel awkward (I felt like I had full control over where I was pointing). I had the advantage of a firm grip and two fingers to navigate with.

      Single handed operation wasn't quite as comfortable, but it involved cupping the device in a vertical fashion holding it with my thumb and middle finger on the sides and using my index finger to point. It wasn't quite as "natural", but it wasn't impossible, either.

      Layne
  • typing

    (Score:5, Interesting)
    by phantomfive (622387) on Friday October 12, @02:55AM (#20950227)
    (http://cs.byuh.edu/~andrew | Last Journal: Friday October 12, @01:12AM)
    OK, I was thinking, "yeah, so what" until they got to the part where they type on the keyboard. You could seriously type on that thing as fast as on a regular keyboard, because of the way they laid it out. Hold it and type at the same time.

    But the webcam on the back is great. I love it. It's like headgear for handhelds. Want to be the master of geekiness? Look no further my friend: the handheld that neither fits in your hand NOR your pocket! Useless you say? Yes, but it's cool!!
    • Re:

      (Score:2)
      Or you could put real keys on the back in the same configuration, with the bumps on the F and J like we all know and love.

      I bet the only reason there is no products on the market like this is because of patents.

      • It would make more sense to use some kind of chording configuration, to avoid the need to move your fingers from key to key. Six keys is enough, though there's no reason why all eight fingers shouldn't be used. In fact you might as well give a button to each thumb too, on the top of the device.

        The buttons would need to have enough resistance so that they can support the weight of the device without registering accidental presses.

        • It would make more sense to use some kind of chording configuration, to avoid the need to move your fingers from key to key.
          In theory, yes, but the public doesn't seem to like the idea. See, for example, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microwriter [wikipedia.org]. And there may be too much prior art to make patent grabs effective.
          • In theory, yes, but the public doesn't seem to like the idea. See, for example, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microwriter [wikipedia.org]. And there may be too much prior art to make patent grabs effective.

            I have one of those - and yes, I can write with it (it does still work, which isn't bad for a twenty-year-old hand held device). Some people used to be pretty fast with them. With modern technology it could be made pretty small and light (the 1980s version is a bit of a brick. But I don't think it's the answer to the problem. I prefer handwriting recognition, which these days is getting pretty good - and we're not that far from talk-to-text being usably effective on handheld devices.

        • Re:typing

          (Score:1)

          The GKOS Sixback [gkos.com] is similar to what you describe. Their version actually goes a step further, and puts a two-button trackpoint mouse under your thumbs.

    • Actually not quite - at least one thumb and one finger has have firm pressure on the device to actually hold it.

      Typing would be quite difficult, especially since the lay out of the keyboard would be different, and the fact that different fingers would have to take turns holding the device up.

      Another thing - why is this under "Slashdot games"? This technology is definitely not limited to games.
      • I'm not sure where you get this idea.....to test, I just picked up a book and imagined there was a keyboard on the back. I was able to support the book in my palms, thus leaving my fingers quite free. The book was somewhat heavier than the device, I would assume, so I don't think it would be too hard. Also, the keys on the device are in the same places your fingers would expect them to be if you can touch-type, so relearning the keyboard layout is not necessary.
    • But the webcam on the back is great. I love it. It's like headgear for handhelds. Want to be the master of geekiness? Look no further my friend: the handheld that neither fits in your hand NOR your pocket! Useless you say? Yes, but it's cool!!
      My guess is that a market-version of this device would use a surface scanner [ubergizmo.com] on the back instead of a cam. =)

    • But have you tried touchtyping with both hands while holding it ...without dropping it ...?

      So you either learn to type all over again or use all ten fingers and drop it ...?

      Microsoft reinventing what Apple have already invented and then implementing it badly ...

       
      • Yes, I have tried a similar experiment. It seemed obviously simple to me, but you guys keep saying it would be so difficult, that I decided to test to make sure. I picked up a book the size of the device and tried typing with it. I was able to hold the book in my palms, leaving my fingers free for typing. You thumbs are obviously on the front, so something different would have to be done about the spacebar. Otherwise, I found typing rather simple. You may disagree with me, but at least try a experiment before being so negative. Also, in the movie, they seemed quite able to support the device in a way that left their fingers free.
        • Maybe maybe not ....I'll see when the device exists ... ... But as you say the spacebar is a problem ...?

          and it does seem that Microsoft are shouting about a technology that is not yet usable (with the camera) and claim it is the technology that is holding it back ... but Apple has already demoed a device that does exactly what Microsoft says cannot be done?

    • Re:typing

      (Score:1, Troll)
      Well this is an idea from MS. What do you expect?

      Apple puts the touchscreen on the front, MS on the back. Which one ist more intuitive?

      Apple puts the help on Apple-?, MS on F1. ...

      So, a touchscreen at the back of the device only makes sense if your design of the GUI is horribly wrong.

      Aaam wait ... this one was from ...

      Ahh, makes sense after all.

      Bye egghat.

  • Apple patent

    (Score:2, Interesting)
    Apple filed a patent on that several months ago. Microsoft's implementation seems cumbersome, using a camera on the back (cleverly kept out of the frame). Apple can at least implement this with multi-touch.

    In any case, I don't see this going anywhere; it
    • Re:Apple patent

      (Score:4, Insightful)
      by msimm (580077) on Friday October 12, @03:08AM (#20950307)
      (http://www.last.fm/)
      Actually if you watch the video the demonstrator explains that the camera method is interim, claiming technological limitations. I think this technology would catch on pretty quickly considering we are pretty used to using our hands (..) to manipulate our environment. Watching it makes one think about how inefficient tactile, one-sided input is while your hands essentially fumble around at the back of the device.

      I don't know about the Apple patent but I'd be happy to see a technology like this make it into handheld devices where screen space is limited and dragging hands or fingers constantly over your workspace is less then optimal.
      • I tried to watch the video. It just looked like one enormous goatse.cx reference to me. Fittingly enough, it's operated from behind.
      • Personally, I'm reserving judgment. It seems like a cool idea, but the camera hanging off the back is a total no-go, and in my limited expertise I can't think of how else they could get reliable feedback on hand positions. "Technical limitations" sounds a lot like "we have no idea how to do this".
    • Re:

      (Score:2)
      Did everyone miss the part where the guy said future versions would use different sensors, not the cumbersome camera sticking out the back? There's all kinds of different ways you could sense the position and motion of the fingers, this is just a tech demo
    • Without the camera-on-a-stick it would probably have to be touch AND pressure sensitive. I'd doubt most alternative sensors could detect "hovering" fingers otherwise. With touch-and-pressure, you could hold it and not "click" until you pressed firmly enough.
      • Add light sensitive (a scattering of photodiodes or similar). You don't care for stuff far away anyway; all you care about is changes in light/colour over areas of the back so no optics needed.
    • Re:

      (Score:2)
      Yes, this was my thought exactly: "Hang on, didn't Apple patent this already?"
    • Re:

      (Score:3, Insightful)
      So basically let's bash Toshiba and Microsoft from trying to make an actual implementation of some obvious vagueness Apple patented.
      The basic idea is so obvious, even I came up with it few times when holding a touchscreen portable ("hmmm if the touch was o
      • Yeah, and i thought of the same thing like 10 years ago when i was driving. "Hrm, if i put a keyboard on the back of my steering wheel, and turned it sideways, i could type without letting go of the wheel!"

        I call lemming law on you, oh mac fanboi!
    • Re:MS still copying apple

      (Score:4, Insightful)
      by wjsteele (255130) on Friday October 12, @06:13AM (#20950995)
      Actually, there is a big difference between the two. The Apple device simply implements the touch surface on the back of the computer. The Microsoft device does it on both sides AND, most importantly, has the ability to track the location of the fingers on the back and display them on the front, so the user get's good feedback as to where his fingers are actually in relation to the device.

      The Apple device doesn't do anything like that.

      Bill
    • Re:

      (Score:3, Informative)
      According to Mitsubishi's page on this project [merl.com]:
      • "As a two-sided touch screen, the LucidTouch is a direct extension of our two-sided touch table, published previously as Under the Table Interaction (reference below).
        ...[snip]...
        Publications:
        Wigdor, D.
  • It corrently works by having a camera sitting behind it and viewing the fingers as they move. If they build the camera into the device it would have to have a very wide angle and be able to distinguish between the fingers and the background.
    • You don't need camera optics for this application, since you are not interested in objects that are far away anyhow. Just sprinkle the backside of the device with a hundred or so individual photodiodes, and you get a (low res, but good enough) idea of where the fingers are (the resolution may seem low, but it will be enough if you make use of anatomical properties such as there are 4 fingers on each side, and their shadows extend more or less in a straight line from the boundaries).
    • That would be utterly retarded. I'm sure the eventual plan is to just use heat/proximity sensors on the back. The prototype in the video hardly even counts as "innovation" hardware-wise. It's just something they slapped together to use as a test platform for the software. And Apple may have a patent on it, but I don't see them actually producing anything. So I think Microsoft wins here, in regards to exposure to the public.
    • Two Cameras... or Four. Stereoscopic vision can easily distinguish fingers from the background. Four cameras would help it even better, which would allow for more random placement of the fingers (or hands.)

      The field of view for the cameras can easily be widened with a simple fish eye lens.

      Bill
  • This looks promising

    (Score:5, Funny)
    by black_lbi (1107229) on Friday October 12, @04:13AM (#20950537)
    Accordion Hero anyone?
  • Interesting idea but...

    (Score:3, Funny)
    It's an interesting idea there is no doubt about that. I really liked the map browsing right up to the point where I noticed the zooming in action looked a lot like he was trying to reproduce goatse with the map. The device will never been the same for me.
    • Speaking of the maps. Did anyone else notice it looked like Google Maps... on an MS co-funded/developed device? Don't tell Ballmer. I think enough innocent chairs have been sacrificed.
  • If the front and back of the unit take input from touches.. how do you hold it when you aren't actively using it?
    • Re:

      (Score:3, Insightful)

      On that note, how do you hold it when you are actively using it? Telekineticly hover it between your hands so that they aren't touching? Or more realistically, very carefully balance it on your thumbs? I can't come up with a way to hold the thing as demons

      • Palms man,,

        (Score:5, Interesting)
        by msimm (580077) on Friday October 12, @03:25AM (#20950367)
        (http://www.last.fm/)
        They are about 1/2 the length of your hand and useless for tapping data (aside from maybe squeeze). I find myself holding just about anything two handed and I drum my fingers or generally move them around idly. This would let you grip the device while interacting comfortably. But it used a front and rear touch system, so if it did become troubling you could use your thumbs on the front or just one hand it when appropriate and problem solved. I think this a good thing and it should be very intuitive and very flexible. Apple's certainly started the ball rolling.
        • They (Palms) are about 1/2 the length of your hand and useless for tapping data (aside from maybe squeeze). I find myself holding just about anything two handed and I drum my fingers or generally move them around idly.

          Have you tried holding a device the size of a PDA or iPhone between two palms?

          For the size of device the researchers are using, it's fine. Both the thickness and the separation due to the large screen allow for comfortable holding with the palms of either hand.

          But try holding an iPhone or PDA between both hands using only your palms. The device slips all over because the edge is not wide enough to preset a good grip. You could possibly solve this with better coatings or flared edges, but the remaining problem is much harder to overcome - your fingers are simply too close to touch the back of the device comfortably.

          The idea as presented is really cool and unique, but I think is locked into a form factor of the size presented in terms of screen space just for that reason (need to be able to keep fingers from both hands from crossing). That size (UMPC/small tablet) has typically not done well in the market...

          For the niche uses of tablets that remain, this is probably a much better input mechanism.
          • You're probably right about the size. Maybe PSP sized, but I wouldn't be surprised to see this in devices smaller. Assuming it's as intuitive as it looks it might even still add usability to smaller devices. Overall I like the idea a lot and look forward to seeing how it works out.
      • I can seem to hold my guitar just fine while tapping strings with my left hand even without the belt. And my guitar isn't one of the lightest ones... So I don't see any problem here.

        In fact you can try with CD container. Hold it between your palms and drum it with your fingers :)

    • That's actually a pretty good question. Normally I hold my phone and iPod by the sides, which for me is more natural. Which isn't to say that I don't ever hold the back of these devices. I'm at work and can't access the YouTube, but from TFA it sounds as if this will be a rather awkward device. It's got a camera on the back to track the movements of your fingers.

      And the researchers are talking about using the light blocking properties of your fingers to track 'fat finger movement' or some similar idea. Which means they haven't done any real homework. I don't know a lot about this stuff, and for what's on the market right now it sounds like these guys have a neat idea, but are going about it in a most amateur way.

      Haven't people been using IR sensors for touch in tables [touchtable.com] and the like since the mid-90s? (maybe not these guys, but I remember reading the tech has been around for that long)

    • No, it's not. Patents are not about protecting "good ideas". They're about protecting "novel implementations" - at least ideally. A patent isn't on, for example, the concept of one-click shopping, it's on the mechanism by which this is achieved. If someone can implement this in a different way, the patent does not apply. Sure Microsoft et al might be able to patent this particular implementation, but they couldn't patent the idea of having a handheld device with an interface on the back and user's inputs represented by shadows on the screen.
  • Pens also obscure the paper that you're writing on. I'm used to that. I like that. I'd rather look at my obscuring hands than some pseudo-transparent shadow of them. This seems like another case of "we developed something neat, now lets make up reasons to use it."
    • I don't know about you, but I tend to angle my paper so that my pen is obscuring my view as little as possible. I'm right-handed, and when I write I have the paper tilted far to the left (sometimes almost horizontal, but I think I'm weird) and my hand is moving away from me so that whatever I've just written is constantly being uncovered. (And besides that, the pen tip is much thinner than my actual fingers, which are hovering a couple inches above the page and thus further out of the way of the word I just wrote.) Yes, my hand might obscure the right side of the last few lines, but I'm not usually worrying about those while I'm writing the next line.

      That's quite different from a touch interface where you finger must obscure the thing you are aiming at.

      • I'm right handed too, but my writing is usually from right to left. That means two things:
        1) I cannot stand pens that smear.
        2) What I've written is obscured, but the space that I intend to write into is not.

        But really, since when has the obstruction of the paper/touchscreen ever been an issue? In addition to dead trees, I use a Dell x50v handheld. I use it a _lot_. I've never felt that I'm obscuring the screen with my nice fat Ph.D stylus. I place it where I want to write/drag/whatever, and remove it when I'm done. I can operate the thing with my fat ugly fingers as well.
  • The only things I want from a mobile device's physical interface are: Clamshell format, a full QWERTY (or preferably Dvorak) matrix/block keyboard (with the keys exactly under one another), and a pointing trackball-style device. A touchscreen with a stylus is an optional advantage, as well as an interface for easy scrolling (and if the device is x86, in which case I will surely change the OS, it should have three mouse buttons as well, left, middle, and right, as the middle button is useful in GNU/Linux). My HTC Universal PDA offers a clamshell design, has a QWERTY matrix/block keyboard, and a touchscreen, but no pointing device and no scrolling interface, but I still prefer it over any kind of touch-only interface. No real buttons, no buy for me.

  • Really, touch screens are cool and all that, but also have some disadvantages [thebestpag...iverse.net], as this page will tell you.
  • ...this thing is far from an iPhone killer. For one, it is still vapourware and would be at least a year or two before it could get to market. They still have A LOT of work to do. For example, the product needs a much faster CPU and/or image processor - the demo shadow fingers look extremely laggy, to a point that it would not be usable because I would have no idea where my fingers actually where when doing something quick like typing.
  • I always wondered how we'd get to the UI William Gibson described in _Neuromancer_, where Case had goggles and his hands buried inside some touch interface he couldn't directly see.

    Now we're finally stepping off the old "see your fingers" path, and into a future where the eye/hand feedback is mediated by the machine.

    When this new device ships with a 3D network dogfight game, we'll have arrived.
  • This could be the perfect platform for implementing touch feedback. Like a memory plastic which deforms from flat into small bumps and ridges under small voltage changes. UI can feedback directly to the fingertips, much like a keyboard, better than a touchpad, much better than a mouse, and entirely better than just a cursor on a screen.

    The problem with those bumps is that they are hard to make optically transparent, or to mount on a graphic display at all without being counterproductively distracting. But if they're on the back of the device, the optical problems disappear (pun intended ;). The front of the device could include something similar, but which "bumps up" only when covered by a finger actually touching the surface, which would occlude the view anyway.

    What this device is actually pulling off is also making the display act like a small volume that can be interactively manipulated from front and back. Just as our 3D vision is mostly constrained to fairly close objects in a relatively narrow field and an extremely short height, this device could bring real 3D manipulation into our reach (pun intended ;).
  • Why not just put a giant trackpad on the back side of the unit?

    Have it divided into 'key-like' segments that conduct uniformly, but have a unique 'keyboard' mode?

    HP put out a PDA for a short time that had a super high-res, mini trackpad on it. There were little nubs to define "buttons" for Home, Calendar, etc. Move these nubs to the back of the device, define a home row, and implement a 'soft keyboard' button?

    You'd effectively be holding a mini-Optimus keyboard with one giant LCD vs. lots of mini OLEDs, and with a re-configurable layout?

    Why? Why?

    Toshiba even had a Synaptics trackpad in some of their high-end laptop models that had a mini monochrome LCD under the translucent surface of the trackpad.

    Make the back out of ePaper with a synaptics-type conductive layer behind it.. Put a color LCD on the front, and do it now!

    Also, why mess with a camera? Because of Apple's patent on a video/display device? Hooey. That idea died when Engelbart still had brown hair.
  • I text msgs pretty fast, but many of my friends complain how their own hand obscures what to type. Somewhat like the keyboard, a new user has to look and type, which calls for a learning curve How to type. If there is a workaround, people would prefer it, just as many non it people work with the mouse. I'm guessing this to be a similar product(and a similar success (like a mouse)), although I'm not sure how good the product would be. But one thing we could be sure of is that there is a market for an alternative.
  • All that to get accuracy of what you are pointing at. A redesign of the Graphical User Interface would have sufficed. What would have been great is if the interface was really translucent, like the headsup displays they have been playing around in car windshields for years.
  • taking /. trolls to new levels.....no thanks
  • Or does that demo video seem rather goatse-esque?
  • When you move your finger to the left, I mean stage left, your virtual finger will move to the right... that is, virtual right... so if you're right-handed, it will be wrong. I suppose it will work OK for left-handed people, though. Could you turn it upside-down? But then when you move your finger upwards, the virtual finger will move downwards!

    Wait, wait, that's wrong. If you turn it upside down you'll be touching the front of the screen instead of the back. The orientation will be correct, but you won't be able to see the screen, unless they can make the electronics transparent. To select objects, instead of pushing down, you'll have to push up, I mean lift down, I mean pull your finger away from the screen.

    And what happens if you rotate it ninety degrees? Clockwise?

    Or counterclockwise, if you're in the southern hemisphere?

    Note, smiley below

    -----> :-) -----
  • Stop!

    (Score:1)
    You had me at transparent rear touch interface ..
  • Finally a way to reliably control my hand held device with no pants on ;)
  • I'm quite excited to read this article, as Daniel Wigdor was one of my instructors in first-year Engineering Science at the University of Toronto about 4 years ago. He taught me CSC181, which was the advanced option of the first-year computer-science course. Back then he was working with developing a system for cell-phones where you could type text by wobbling the cell-phone aroud in your hand instead of pressing keys.

    I'm really glad to see his research going well, it seems he's doing very well for himself =)

    Aikon-

  • I guess this is just the kind of thing we WON'T be seeing more of, coming as it did from MERL (Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs). There was a story a few months ago about how MERL is packing its bags and getting out of the biz. Having been a researcher at MERL, I have to say its a darn shame.
  • hands

    (Score:1)
    well, split the device and embed it into the hand. have each half be used to generate a display field. on this field use the fingers to manipulate the display, and the eyes' focal point to direct the manipulated depth.

    you hear me jeff han? :)
  • Tags: retarded, bassackwards

    Thanks for telling me how to think as always, /. ...

    Clearly this isn't "ready for prime time" yet, but I like the idea. Just think - if the PSP did this, you could blow through menus without even repositioning your hands or even interrupting button presses. On the DS it's so annoying when a game is made for "press a few buttons, dig out the stylus, tap something, put it away, press more buttons, take out the stylus..." etc. I also had a problem with occlusion playing Ouendan / Elite Beat Agents on DS - you get a fraction of a second to hit a marker that shows up anywhere on screen, but if you're not holding the pen at the top, your fingers will block the screen and you'll miss unless you've memorized the level beforehand. ...of course having finger shadows on the game screen could be annoying, but it could be tweaked down to a single cursor or dynamic number of cursors. Bravo! No more nasty hand cramps from holding tablets weirdly in one hand while writing with the other for hours on end!