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10/GUI Multitouch Interactive Device (Proposal)

Published by marco on

10/GUI by R. Clayton Miller documents a design proposal for a way to better incorporate multi-touch technology into everyday computing.

10/GUi by R. Clayton Miller

Executive summary:

  • Your arms are too heavy to be able to multi-touch on-screen.
  • Your arms and hands are not transparent.
  • The mouse has only a single point of contact (not counting mouse-gesturing, which offers more degrees of freedom).
  • What about putting the multi-touch surface on the table instead of on the screen?
  • Manipulating classically clipped and overlapped windows is confusing; we need a better way of organizing application windows and work-areas.
  • That better way involves moving the application menu (e.g. Windows Taskbar or Windows menubar[1]) to the left, the global menu (i.e. Windows Taskbar or the Apple Dock[2]) to the right and making all windows the full height of the screen at all times and stacking from left to right.

It’s an intriguing presentation, but I see the following problems with the design:

  • The latest iMac has a 27" screen; that’s a damned big multi-touch surface to duplicate on the desk.[3] Apple is not alone; screens on desktops are getting bigger. Also, notebooks and netbooks are getting more and more popular; though the bottom half of a notebook is the right size, it has a keyboard on it right now, which brings us to the next point.
  • If the multi-touch surface goes on the desk, where does the keyboard go? Is the keyboard also virtual, but not on-screen? If it were on-screen, it would take up precious screen-space; If it’s purely virtual, there’s no haptic response. How would you switch from manipulating windows with 10-touch and typing?
  • Some users derive benefit from a non-linear juxtaposition of windows. For example, with larger screens—and screens are getting huge these days[4]—users can place video-phone and chat applications on the side, perhaps have a video running in another corner, and still have room left over for a text editor and an open web page. It’s hard to imagine having all windows simply flowing from left-to-right and having to constantly shuffle the windows back and forth to see multiple things at once (no matter how much awesome fun it is to do so). Granted, it might help one’s concentration, but that’s what applications like Ommwriter are for.

[1] And, of course, whatever Ubuntu & other flavors of Unix are calling their clones of these features these days, be they running KDE or Gnome or whatever. The author, as an Opera user, intends no disrespect to users of niche products
[2] See above.
[3] Or the couch, from where this author is currently happily (and quite lazily) driving said iMac with a tiny Bluetooth keyboard and mouse.
[4] The author would like to remind everyone that he’s currently using a 27" iMac from his couch, zoomed-in, or course, to reduce eyestrain.


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