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Apple seeks engineer for next-gen multi-touch displays

post #1 of 53
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Although traditionally tight-lipped, Apple Inc. in a recent job posting has revealed plans to incorporate multi-touch display panels in more of its future products.

A solicitation for a "Senior Panel Process Engineer" posted to widely known job site on Thursday seeks an individual who will "lead the engineering activities to develop the new process and design for the multi-touch panel used in Apple products."

The Cupertino-based company said the individual will serve as a focal point in the designing and the process development of advanced multi-touch panels from concept to product ramp.

Among the many responsibilities that come with the job, Apple said, is that the new multi-touch panels be developed in such a way that they enable the best performance in both a functional and reliable way.

The ideal candidate, the company added, will need to have hands-on experience and proven track record in the design and development of the thin film process and its integration, or the front-end process in flat panel industry, including array, color filter and panel design.

"Experiences in developing and manufacturing high volume display products are preferred," Apple wrote.

Thus far, the consumer electronics maker has revealed plans to incorporate multi-touch displays only within its upcoming iPhone device. However, later this year it is expected to extend that technology to a new generation of its flagship video iPod players.
post #2 of 53
Hmm. This job posting, to me, more or less confirms that the technology won't be making it into Macs anytime soon... but that it almost definitely will in the not-too-far-off future (2008 perhaps).
post #3 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by psychodoughboy View Post

Hmm. This job posting, to me, more or less confirms that the technology won't be making it into Macs anytime soon... but that it almost definitely will in the not-too-far-off future (2008 perhaps).

Not necessarily. They're probably *expanding* a team that already exists. I'm betting on Multi Touch iMacs at the release of Leopard, to showcase all 10.5's new capabilities...
post #4 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by rdas7 View Post

Not necessarily. They're probably *expanding* a team that already exists. I'm betting on Multi Touch iMacs at the release of Leopard, to showcase all 10.5's new capabilities...

Based on that job posting ("lead the engineering activities to develop the new process and design for the multi-touch panel used in Apple products") I sure wouldn't count on that.
post #5 of 53
Knowing Apple, probably mid to late 2008 at the very earliest.
post #6 of 53
Wow, the possibilities are enormous here... Imagine a surface that serves as a screen, also a scanner, and charges your iPod if you place it on, just to name a couple of uses. A real keyboard will be hard to replace though...
post #7 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by rdas7 View Post

Not necessarily. They're probably *expanding* a team that already exists. I'm betting on Multi Touch iMacs at the release of Leopard, to showcase all 10.5's new capabilities...

I imagine we will see multitouch laptops before desktops, it just makes more sense from a usability perspective unless they are going to come out with desk built-in macs....
post #8 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Buck View Post

Wow, the possibilities are enormous here... Imagine a surface that serves as a screen, also a scanner, and charges your iPod if you place it on, just to name a couple of uses. A real keyboard will be hard to replace though...

Keyboards don't need to be replaced, especially since their tactile feedback is so useful - something like this can be purely supplemental to them, though. This may have the potential to (someday, a LONG way from now) replace the mouse.
post #9 of 53
I think sometimes people make serious comments without thinking them through. Why would Apple make a touch screen iMac? Why? Think through that question and try and prove to me that they will. As I said on various other sites where similar stories have arisen, Apple may make multi-touch tablets and touch panels for retail, but I still think the way forward for the home consumer Mac's is multi-touch touch screen keyboards that replace both existing keyboard and mouse in one unit. The dock could replace the F-keys if you liked, the on screen cursor would move if one dragged one finger across the display. The keboard could do QWERTY or DVORAK or WHATEVER YOU WANT, and could display any message like you have 1 new Mail etc. It's the way forward I'm sure of it.
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post #10 of 53
Will we ever see the Camera in Display stuff?

-tj
post #11 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

I think sometimes people make serious comments without thinking them through. Why would Apple make a touch screen iMac? Why? Think through that question and try and prove to me that they will. As I said on various other sites where similar stories have arisen, Apple may make multi-touch tablets and touch panels for retail, but I still think the way forward for the home consumer Mac's is multi-touch touch screen keyboards that replace both existing keyboard and mouse in one unit. The dock could replace the F-keys if you liked, the on screen cursor would move if one dragged one finger across the display. The keboard could do QWERTY or DVORAK or WHATEVER YOU WANT, and could display any message like you have 1 new Mail etc. It's the way forward I'm sure of it.

My arms are already tired from typing. Last I want to do is have to hold them up and then cock my wrists back. Not ergonomic what so ever.
post #12 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hobbes View Post

Based on that job posting ("lead the engineering activities to develop the new process and design for the multi-touch panel used in Apple products") I sure wouldn't count on that.

Someone at Apple built the iPhone! The skills are in place. So nothing rules out at least the possibility of new multi-touch products any time regardless of this new job.
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post #13 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

I think sometimes people make serious comments without thinking them through. Why would Apple make a touch screen iMac? Why? Think through that question and try and prove to me that they will. As I said on various other sites where similar stories have arisen, Apple may make multi-touch tablets and touch panels for retail, but I still think the way forward for the home consumer Mac's is multi-touch touch screen keyboards that replace both existing keyboard and mouse in one unit. The dock could replace the F-keys if you liked, the on screen cursor would move if one dragged one finger across the display. The keboard could do QWERTY or DVORAK or WHATEVER YOU WANT, and could display any message like you have 1 new Mail etc. It's the way forward I'm sure of it.

I suspect you have to imagine beyond the obvious. A mouse was laughed at in 1984 when I demonstrated the Mac Plus to many die hard DOS fans.

It may not be implemented as we are imagining. I, for one, want to see what Steve and co. are cooking up.
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post #14 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

I think sometimes people make serious comments without thinking them through. Why would Apple make a touch screen iMac? Why? Think through that question and try and prove to me that they will.

We agree for once. I just can't see people reaching across their desktops for hours at a time. That would be poor design. The future of Multi-Touch is in portable units: iPhones, iPods, has great potential in a tablet, and possibly even laptops, but that's another awkward reaching situation.

-Clive
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post #15 of 53
Why not just get the guy from Perceptive Pixel on board?
Link 1
Link 2
post #16 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post

Someone at Apple built the iPhone! The skills are in place. So nothing rules out at least the possibility of new multi-touch products any time regardless of this new job.

I think this probably points to some dissatisfaction with the touch-screen for the iPhone - if it were as good as they wanted, why wouldn't they use someone from the same team to lead this movement? This looks like a great reason to wait for the second release of the iPhone...
post #17 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

I think sometimes people make serious comments without thinking them through. Why would Apple make a touch screen iMac? Why? Think through that question and try and prove to me that they will. As I said on various other sites where similar stories have arisen, Apple may make multi-touch tablets and touch panels for retail, but I still think the way forward for the home consumer Mac's is multi-touch touch screen keyboards that replace both existing keyboard and mouse in one unit. The dock could replace the F-keys if you liked, the on screen cursor would move if one dragged one finger across the display. The keboard could do QWERTY or DVORAK or WHATEVER YOU WANT, and could display any message like you have 1 new Mail etc. It's the way forward I'm sure of it.

Maybe, but what you propose requires the user to split his attention between the screen (display and cursor) and the actions being performed in the virtual keyboard + the mini messages being displayed in the keyboard.

It is about the same type of attention splitting as using a Wacom Tablet. and that exist today.
post #18 of 53
The best tool for the job varies based on the job being performed and the deficient tools procedures that exist today.

Until the above is identified, one should not rule out a particular approach or technology.

When the only tool you have is a hammer, problems start to look like nails.

More tools and different ways to use those tools provide you a large amount of ways to tackle the different problems that exist.

Remember ..... Think Different.
post #19 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Superbass View Post

I think this probably points to some dissatisfaction with the touch-screen for the iPhone - if it were as good as they wanted, why wouldn't they use someone from the same team to lead this movement? This looks like a great reason to wait for the second release of the iPhone...

I don't know about that. Jobs is known for his extreme perfectionism when it comes to that sort of thing. I think, though, that different applications for multitouch software (on full computers with much bigger screens than the iPhone, or on peripherals rather than standalone devices) will require some additional engineering, especially to help bring component costs down or for different screen sizes.
post #20 of 53
Notice that it said "Apple products" - plural.
post #21 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by crees! View Post

My arms are already tired from typing. Last I want to do is have to hold them up and then cock my wrists back. Not ergonomic what so ever.

You didn't read my post correctly, I said touch-screen keyboard, not touch-screen display.
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post #22 of 53
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Originally Posted by EagerDragon View Post

Maybe, but what you propose requires the user to split his attention between the screen (display and cursor) and the actions being performed in the virtual keyboard + the mini messages being displayed in the keyboard.

Mutil-touch is an intelligent system, my guess you could just drag your finger anywhere on the display and the on-screen mouse cursor would move, even if you accidentally hit some of the keyboard's on-screen keys - it would know.
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post #23 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

Mutil-touch is an intelligent system, my guess you could just drag your finger anywhere on the display and the on-screen mouse cursor would move, even if you accidentally hit some of the keyboard's on-screen keys - it would know.

Multitouch capacitance sensing screens are velocity/pressure sensitive such that the display can tell the difference between navigation and command execution.

An example is the way iPhone's virtual keyboard works. Gliding your fingers across the "keys" does not trigger them. But how do you know you're on the right key? This has been a major complaint from people who have not closely studied how multitouch works.

In Apple's case, following the patents filed by Apple in 2005 and 2006, the interface design of iPhone incorporates a feedback system... That is, since you don't have tactile sensation of the keys, Apple's engineers figured out a way to fill that need for feedback... i.e. a means of securing intended input.

Watch the keynote carefully... when Steve Jobs glides his fingers over the keys, the key in closest proximity to his finger enlarges. This is not a two-step process... One doesn't need to press anything to cancel the selection. Merely move your finger off the key and the selection is cancelled. Press the key and the selection is executed.

In other words, it works as much like a real keyboard as possible. You can run your fingers over the keys without accidentally pressing them, assuming the pressure thresholds are pretty well designed... but knowing Apple I think that's a foregone conclusion.
post #24 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Superbass View Post

I think this probably points to some dissatisfaction with the touch-screen for the iPhone - if it were as good as they wanted, why wouldn't they use someone from the same team to lead this movement? This looks like a great reason to wait for the second release of the iPhone...

It's a company HR process issue. Even if they have someone internal from the iPhone development team with these skills, as most big companies do, Apple HR puts the job posting up on their site to acquire as large a candidate pool as possible, both internally and externally.

This is for a few reasons... fairness being one of them. They need to allow other internal and external employees the opportunity to apply for the position, including the person on the iPhone team.

Additionally, there might be an external candidate who is better suited to projects of this magnitude which go beyond what iPhone is... because iPhone is just the tip of the iceberg of what Apple wants to do with multitouch.
post #25 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

I think sometimes people make serious comments without thinking them through. Why would Apple make a touch screen iMac? Why? Think through that question and try and prove to me that they will. As I said on various other sites where similar stories have arisen, Apple may make multi-touch tablets and touch panels for retail, but I still think the way forward for the home consumer Mac's is multi-touch touch screen keyboards that replace both existing keyboard and mouse in one unit. The dock could replace the F-keys if you liked, the on screen cursor would move if one dragged one finger across the display. The keboard could do QWERTY or DVORAK or WHATEVER YOU WANT, and could display any message like you have 1 new Mail etc. It's the way forward I'm sure of it.

Lack of feedback from a touchscreen keyboard would be annoying.

You keep bringing this up but refuse to consider that the iMac set in a Cintiq like stand could be laid down or stood upright as desired.

When doing iPhoto or similar activities (Google Earth, games, whatever) where manipulation of objects in a visual manner is desireable you pull the iMac toward you into a more horizontal position. Then sort photos (or whatever) like you see in the Han videos.

When you need to type in a lot of text you move the iMac back to a vertical position and use a keyboard.

You can also have two displays...one vertical and one horizontal. See Sun's old Starfire video for how that would work. I have a 30" ACD and a 21" Cintiq...the ACD is vertical and the Cintiq is in a draftsman position (call it 20-30 degrees elevated).

Vinea
post #26 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Clive At Five View Post

We agree for once. I just can't see people reaching across their desktops for hours at a time. That would be poor design. The future of Multi-Touch is in portable units: iPhones, iPods, has great potential in a tablet, and possibly even laptops, but that's another awkward reaching situation.

-Clive

Several people have commented on the awkwardness of the design here without thinking about how one would go about designing this to the satisfaction of a variety of users.

Apple has already figured this out... Their patent filings indicate solutions such as a docking L-stand much like that of their existing iMacs where the charging connection is not physical but induction-based. This allows for easy removal of the multitouch display from the stand so that users can use the device in any orientation... on their lap, on an angled table, on the stand, widescreen, book-page, etc.

That being said, there's every indication that portable computing and communications are the future direction that Apple's angling with multitouch... as supported by the emergence of a Mobile Mac business unit to address the rapidly growing market segment of internet users who access the internet via mobile devices, e.g. phone/pda, laptop, etc.

At the same time, though, I suspect that their largest mobile multitouch devices will have the screen real estate of a small laptop and be mountable on one of the aforementioned induction-charging stands.

If you think about it... typing on a keyboard is not an ergonomically-correct design either. People who use keyboards for exceptional lengths of time develop carpal-tunnel syndrome for this very reason.

However, the traditional mouse and keyboard will probably connect to certain Mobile Macs as alternate input devices via the usual USB interface. There's no reason to suspect Apple would entirely exclude them.
post #27 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by psychodoughboy View Post

Keyboards don't need to be replaced, especially since their tactile feedback is so useful - something like this can be purely supplemental to them, though. This may have the potential to (someday, a LONG way from now) replace the mouse.

For some of us, it did that years ago. Fingerworks iGesture products, the original developers of MultiTouch. Works just fine. The only reasons it didn't do well were fairly high cost (although IMHO much better price/functionality ratio than the high-end $100 optical mice out there), fairly steep learning curve for anything other than basic mouse functions and just simple lack of publicity for the products. Most people in this forum have never heard of them, obviously.
post #28 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by jbh0001 View Post

Why not just get the guy from Perceptive Pixel on board?
Link 1
Link 2

Wow, I'm impressed. I do like the tactile response of a keyboard, but that type of UI is more than impressive!
post #29 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by jamezog View Post

Wow, I'm impressed. I do like the tactile response of a keyboard, but that type of UI is more than impressive!

The key thing here is that the pressure sensitivity and physics modeling (objects retaining momentum when "tossed", etc) add MULTIPLE dimensions of feedback unachievable by keyboard and mouse input.

Therefore, I feel that the tradeoff is a huge net gain... especially because our brains have evolved in a world of concordant input from various stimuli (auditory, visual, locomotor equilibrium, etc.) that provide other cues beyond mere touch which tell our brains much more about where we are, what we're interacting with, and how much action/force is required to produce a given result.

Before you know it, you'll have figured out exactly how fast you'll have to push that virtual picture in order to let it slide five more inches from momentum when you let it go. That seems like useless feedback but it isn't. The more natively the technology is attuned to the way your senses work, the more you can focus on doing and creating while the device/technology itself becomes transparent in the process of whatever it is you're trying to do.

In other words, "computing" is not what people are trying to do when they draw a picture. They are trying to draw a picture, or compose a tune, or browse an online shop... if they can do so with as little conscious "computing" as possible, then all those little tasks add up to a lot of freed up time to be creating, entertaining, researching, playing through a device that is there only to facilitate those experiences.

This makes me believe that Apple didn't drop "computer" from their name just because they're branching out into non-computing devices... but more because the computers they are designing are becoming so transparent to the activities they are designed to facilitate that "computer" is no longer a useful term for what Apple makes.
post #30 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Snowdog74 View Post

Multitouch capacitance sensing screens are velocity/pressure sensitive such that the display can tell the difference between navigation and command execution.

An example is the way iPhone's virtual keyboard works. Gliding your fingers across the "keys" does not trigger them. But how do you know you're on the right key? This has been a major complaint from people who have not closely studied how multitouch works.

In Apple's case, following the patents filed by Apple in 2005 and 2006, the interface design of iPhone incorporates a feedback system... That is, since you don't have tactile sensation of the keys, Apple's engineers figured out a way to fill that need for feedback... i.e. a means of securing intended input.

Watch the keynote carefully... when Steve Jobs glides his fingers over the keys, the key in closest proximity to his finger enlarges. This is not a two-step process... One doesn't need to press anything to cancel the selection. Merely move your finger off the key and the selection is cancelled. Press the key and the selection is executed.

In other words, it works as much like a real keyboard as possible. You can run your fingers over the keys without accidentally pressing them, assuming the pressure thresholds are pretty well designed... but knowing Apple I think that's a foregone conclusion.

I don't worry about accidental presses, but I do want to be able to type without looking at the keys while I do so.
post #31 of 53
I have no idea why everyone here would want a touch screen keyboard, that'd be really expensive and you'd always have to look at it.

The only reason it works in the phone is because it's all one small screen and what you type is directly above the keyboard. If the keyboard and screen are separate then you'd never be looking up at the screen. Adding a little "click" sound when you press one wouldn't help.
This just seems overly difficult to offer little to no new functionality, DVORAK isn't a big deal to anyone anymore, not even writer's really, that'd just be a fancy show off feature no one would use.

I don't think anyone wants to buy what would probably be a 200 dollar keyboard just to take 2 steps back and be forced to stare at their typing all the time.
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post #32 of 53
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Originally Posted by psychodoughboy View Post

I don't worry about accidental presses, but I do want to be able to type without looking at the keys while I do so.

I actually don't imagine this as being as much of a problem as people make it out to be.

All the letter keys on a real keyboard are the same size. How do you tell them apart? It's not from running your fingers around to figure out where those keys are.

People weren't born with the mapping for keyboards in their head... whether full-size, miniature or touchscreen. Learning any new device takes time. However, my point here is that my dexterity with the keyboard that I'm typing on has less to do with its design than my thousands of hours of usage of it.

Since most of the keys are the same size, how does your brain tell them apart? Some people do it (very slowly) by fishing across the keys to know which key they're at in relation to the other keys. But fast typers... the kind that complain about not being able to type on a flat surface without looking... probably don't realize that it's not the tactile sensation they've memorized. What's being memorized is the absolute location of each key in relation to how far your fingers have to move to find it and in what direction from their resting position.

I imagine that in very short time many users will have already memorized the layout and absolute positions of each key on the iPhone... with no tactile feedback at all. I know this as surely as I'm typing this message at 90wpm with few if any errors, while looking at the screen and not the keyboard, AND rarely, if at all, touching or even brushing any of the keys other than the ones that compose this message.

Of course on the off chance I *do* make an error, I also happen to have the absolute position of the backspace key memorized.

How do I know I made an error if I take my eyes of the screen for any given period of time? I have the positions of all the wrong keys memorized too. By that I mean to say that if a finger lands on the wrong key, I can tell that my finger is positioned incorrectly for the given letter I'm trying to type. I backspace, correct, and continue typing.

I'm not a genius... it's just practice and the innate ability of the human brain to know exactly what any part of your body is doing and where it is at any given moment in time.

This is why I'm particularly excited about Jeff Han's explanation that we don't even need to restrict ourselves to fixed keyboards with multitouch... How about a keyboard that "floats" the screen, following wherever your hands go by calculating the relative position of your keystrokes to one another to anticipate what letters you are trying to key.

Think about THAT!
post #33 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Snowdog74 View Post

I actually don't imagine this as being as much of a problem as people make it out to be.

All the letter keys on a real keyboard are the same size. How do you tell them apart? It's not from running your fingers around to figure out where those keys are.

Well...a real test would be for you to type on a flat surface and measure errors. I suppose when I build a multi touch surface I can conduct that experiment.

I think that I use the keys to help with "drift". I can tell if my hand position is straying when I hit a key edge rather than the key center and I automatically readjust a little back. This is why the keys are shaped to cradle your finger tips...more tactile feedback to how on center you really are.

I probably also subconsciously use the two reference dots on the f & j keys to recenter my hands if for whatever reason I'm off the home row. I've never noticed that but I also haven't been thinking about it either. I probably only need this when I'm thinking about what to write next and pause in typing, move my hand away to either relax the fingers, scratch my chin or pick up my coke and return to the home row without looking. If I'm offset I know right away and recorrect without interrupting my train of thought.

Muscle memory helps in that you know that from the home position you move so far to get to the key you want. It doesn't help if you happen to be offset from the home position...except to consistently hit the incorrect key or blank spot.

Quote:
This is why I'm particularly excited about Jeff Han's explanation that we don't even need to restrict ourselves to fixed keyboards with multitouch... How about a keyboard that "floats" the screen, following wherever your hands go by calculating the relative position of your keystrokes to one another to anticipate what letters you are trying to key.

Think about THAT!

Yes, he mentioned that. The problem is that the FITR can't detect your hands when they are not touching the keyboard. I suppose it could guess where the home row is when you get to a rest position but as your drift you may not drift equally with both hands. Then what does it do? Not everyone is a perfect touch typist with consistent usage of the correct fingering.

Also I believe that you would not leave your fingers at rest on the home row with that particular technology. While it can tell pressure differences what it really measures is how much you are interrupting the internal reflection...not pressure. Disruption of internal reflection is dependent on a variety of factors.

A virtual keyboard on a touch screen is usable but not optimal. At least until we get a surface that is transparent, can sense touch and can provide tactile feedback.

Vinea
post #34 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by vinea View Post

A virtual keyboard on a touch screen is usable but not optimal. At least until we get a surface that is transparent, can sense touch and can provide tactile feedback.

Immersion. Some of this technology is being used in newly introduced touchscreen mobile phones like the Samsung SCH-W559
post #35 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by vinea View Post

Well...a real test would be for you to type on a flat surface and measure errors. I suppose when I build a multi touch surface I can conduct that experiment.

I think that I use the keys to help with "drift". I can tell if my hand position is straying when I hit a key edge rather than the key center and I automatically readjust a little back. This is why the keys are shaped to cradle your finger tips...more tactile feedback to how on center you really are.

I probably also subconsciously use the two reference dots on the f & j keys to recenter my hands if for whatever reason I'm off the home row. I've never noticed that but I also haven't been thinking about it either. I probably only need this when I'm thinking about what to write next and pause in typing, move my hand away to either relax the fingers, scratch my chin or pick up my coke and return to the home row without looking. If I'm offset I know right away and recorrect without interrupting my train of thought.

Muscle memory helps in that you know that from the home position you move so far to get to the key you want. It doesn't help if you happen to be offset from the home position...except to consistently hit the incorrect key or blank spot.

You do realize that most people who don't automatically know where the home position is without looking or feeling around will have to take a second to figure out where it is, and then from there have everything memorized... Well, then the same holds true for a multitouch keyboard.

Note that I am not talking about multitouch keyboards as though I think they are necessary secondary input devices. Wherever possible, I much prefer the idea of direct imitation of physical object manipulation as in the Jeff Han demonstrations of multitouch.

My main points are:

1. Typing without looking is not impossible on multitouch.

2. Considerable proficiency can be achieved on mulitouch... not necessarily by everyone. It varies depending on magnitude of usage and interest in developing such skill... but this is also true for any physical input device. There are individuals who have used typewriters and keyboards for decades and still hunt and peck at rates slower than one character per second.

3. While multitouch keyboards aren't the optimal input device, they are a type of input device that will be desired for some time until better solutions arise.

4. Multiple dimensions of feedback possible with multitouch greatly offset the loss of tactile feedback that some claim to be the issue.

5. Newer technologies such as speech recognition, speech to text, and tactile simulation on touchscreen elements will further offset such concerns in the near future.


Quote:
The problem is that the FITR can't detect your hands when they are not touching the keyboard.

Actually, Fingerworks prior to their purchase by Apple had designed a product that did exactly this.
post #36 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Snowdog74 View Post

You do realize that most people who don't automatically know where the home position is without looking or feeling around will have to take a second to figure out where it is, and then from there have everything memorized... Well, then the same holds true for a multitouch keyboard.

The tactile feel of the keys keeps them from drifting further and further away from where they need to be. The raised dots on the F and J key provide the necessary tactile feedback to keep the hands in general alignment and the edges of the keys keep the hands aligned at the proper angle. Find a keyboard lacking the dots and you'll quickly realize how much of a difference they make.

Those things are missing in a multitouch keyboard. Perhaps if you performed a small experiment and found a flat surface, marked a position for your index fingers (in a manner that wouldn't provide tactile feedback) and start typing away. Chances are you'll find your hands running into each other or drifting further apart.

I think the power of multitouch would be in it's ability to render a custom interface easily. If you're using Photoshop, it provides a pallet of tools suited for the job. Switch to World of Warcraft and get a very different interface for controlling your character. I keep thinking about the control panels from Star Trek The Next Generation, where they could easily change to match the task at hand.
post #37 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by caliminius View Post

The tactile feel of the keys keeps them from drifting further and further away from where they need to be. The raised dots on the F and J key provide the necessary tactile feedback to keep the hands in general alignment and the edges of the keys keep the hands aligned at the proper angle. Find a keyboard lacking the dots and you'll quickly realize how much of a difference they make.

Nope. I don't tend to find the home row by looking for the dots. In fact, most of the time I don't even rest my fingers on the keyboard in between typing.

But even so, I think that this is such a pithy argument against multitouch interfaces because, as I mentioned before, the interface offers more dimensions of feedback than it takes away... many more. When weighed against a physical keyboard for feedback potential, there's simply no comparison.

Quote:
Those things are missing in a multitouch keyboard. Perhaps if you performed a small experiment and found a flat surface, marked a position for your index fingers (in a manner that wouldn't provide tactile feedback) and start typing away. Chances are you'll find your hands running into each other or drifting further apart.

Someone earlier mentioned that without looking down you can be a row off and keying erroneous input... The example used was a physical keyboard. Doesn't this demonstrate that in either case many users really need to periodically look at the screen? I'll come back to this later, though.

Actually I have used flat keyboard terminals and I type with mostly the same degree of accuracy and speed. Additionally, I'm watching my fingertips and they don't actually angle in on the keys. I tend to curl my fingers so that the tips land straight down on the keys without touching any adjacent keys... meaning I don't feel any keys except the ones I'm striking. How can I possibly know which key I'm hitting without looking? I have the layout memorized. Yes, on occasion I'll look at the keyboard for a moment before typing but from there I don't tend to rely on tactile differentiation to tell me whether or not I'm in the right place. This would be no different from taking a second to orient yourself with the layout of the iPhone before each use.

That being said, you can't really key erroneous input on something like the iPhone because if you brush in proximity to two keys, the key to which you have greater proximity is the one that will be selected. Furthermore, in order to actually select it you have to press the key. Additionally, the system in iPhone uses active spell correction to mitigate typos instead of using predictive text input which is horrendous.

Quote:
I think the power of multitouch would be in it's ability to render a custom interface easily. If you're using Photoshop, it provides a pallet of tools suited for the job. Switch to World of Warcraft and get a very different interface for controlling your character. I keep thinking about the control panels from Star Trek The Next Generation, where they could easily change to match the task at hand.

I have never suggested otherwise. I am only discussing virtual keyboards from the point of view of a communications or other device where an alternative form of input might not be immediately available and you need to write an e-mail, text message or note. It's not easy to carry a full-size keyboard around with you everywhere. But if you're at home with your Mobile Mac tablet, let's say, then yes you're going to use a keyboard for typing.

I also think that people make much more of a stink than is necessary about being able to type quickly without tactile input. If someone needs to feel around the keys of a tactile keyboard to know where they are, they're going to be slower at typing than I am because half the time of almost every keystroke will be invested in finding the right keys by whatever tactile method they have devised. The only way to type faster than that is to have the layout memorized so that you strike the correct keys the first time without fishing around for them.

I think that it's important from an industrial design standpoint to find ways to understand how the general user thinks and uses technology in order to design a device that works elegantly. But the answer isn't necessarily in finding out how to better imitate the properties of a poorly designed input device.

The tiny tactile keyboard is a mediocre input device in itself that did not arise because people everywhere were bemoaning the lack of their existence in the years prior to their first introduction. It was at best an interim solution until something better came along. I for one have not purchased and will not purchase a PDA with a tiny physical keyboard because I think they're ridiculously clunky. Until the multitouch solution presented various possibilities, I was prepared to wait for accurate speech to text before buying a PDA.

On the one hand I think companies need to pay attention to user habits to design better devices. On the other hand, I also think that people need to look at what they type.

I am sick and tired of reading corporate e-mails where users are now typing without proper punctuation or grammar, and often in internet shorthand. Communications skills have gone down the toilet in the workplace. The older generations are not an exception, either. I see executive e-mails that are written horribly. I think it's important to look at what the hell you're typing.

Most people, self-professed blind texters included, generally cannot seem to type in complete sentences, unbroken english or without typing errors and it only gets worse when they try to speed type without looking at the screen or keyboard. If they're so fast with their fingers, what about their eyes? How much time does it really take them to maybe glance at the screen and look at what they're typing every few seconds, preferably before they hit send?
post #38 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by caliminius View Post

The tactile feel of the keys keeps them from drifting further and further away from where they need to be. The raised dots on the F and J key provide the necessary tactile feedback to keep the hands in general alignment and the edges of the keys keep the hands aligned at the proper angle. Find a keyboard lacking the dots and you'll quickly realize how much of a difference they make.

Nope. I don't tend to find the home row by looking for the dots. In fact, of the fingers that I actively use while typing... I've found I don't rest them on the F and J keys. In fact, I don't rest my fingers on the keyboard at all.

But even so, I think that this is such a pithy argument against multitouch interfaces because, as I mentioned before, the interface offers more dimensions of feedback than it takes away... many more. When weighed against a physical keyboard for feedback potential, there's simply no comparison.

Quote:
Those things are missing in a multitouch keyboard. Perhaps if you performed a small experiment and found a flat surface, marked a position for your index fingers (in a manner that wouldn't provide tactile feedback) and start typing away. Chances are you'll find your hands running into each other or drifting further apart.

Someone earlier mentioned that without looking down you can be a row off and keying erroneous input... The example used was a physical keyboard. Doesn't this demonstrate that in either case many users really need to periodically look at the screen? I'll come back to this later, though.

Actually I have used flat keyboard terminals and I type with mostly the same degree of accuracy and speed. Additionally, I'm watching my fingertips and they don't actually angle in on the keys. I tend to curl my fingers so that the tips land straight down on the keys without touching any adjacent keys... meaning I don't feel any keys except the ones I'm striking. How can I possibly know which key I'm hitting without looking? I have the layout memorized.

That being said, you can't really key erroneous input on something like the iPhone because if you brush in proximity to two keys, the key to which you have greater proximity is the one that will be selected. Furthermore, in order to actually select it you have to press the key. Additionally, the system in iPhone uses active spell correction to mitigate typos instead of using predictive text input which is horrendous.

Quote:
I think the power of multitouch would be in it's ability to render a custom interface easily. If you're using Photoshop, it provides a pallet of tools suited for the job. Switch to World of Warcraft and get a very different interface for controlling your character. I keep thinking about the control panels from Star Trek The Next Generation, where they could easily change to match the task at hand.

I have never suggested otherwise. I am only discussing virtual keyboards from the point of view of a communications or other device where an alternative form of input might not be immediately available and you need to write an e-mail, text message or note. It's not easy to carry a full-size keyboard around with you everywhere. But if you're at home with your Mobile Mac tablet, let's say, then yes you're going to use a keyboard for typing.

I also think that people make much more of a stink about being able to type quickly without tactile input. If someone needs to feel around the keys of a tactile keyboard to know where they are, they're going to be slower at typing than I am because half the time of almost every keystroke will be invested in finding the right keys by whatever tactile method they have devised. The only way to type faster than that is to have the layout memorized so that you strike the correct keys the first time without fishing around for them.

I think that it's important from an industrial design standpoint to find ways to understand how the general user thinks and uses technology in order to design a device that works elegantly. But the answer isn't necessarily in finding out how to better imitate the properties of a poorly designed input device.

The tiny tactile keyboard is a mediocre input device in itself that did not arise because people everywhere were asking for tiny tactile keyboards to be slapped onto otherwise compact communications devices. It was at best an interim solution until something better came along. I for one have not purchased and will not purchase a PDA with a tiny physical keyboard because I think they're ridiculously clunky. Until the multitouch solution presented various possibilities, I was prepared to wait for accurate speech to text before buying a PDA.

On the one hand I think companies need to pay attention to user habits to design better devices. On the other hand, I also think that people need to look at what they type.

I am sick and tired of reading corporate e-mails where users are now typing without proper punctuation or grammar, and often in internet shorthand. Communications skills have gone down the toilet in the workplace. The older generations are not an exception, either. I see executive e-mails that are written horribly. I think it's important to look at what the hell you're typing.

Most people, self-professed blind texters included, generally cannot seem to type in complete sentences, unbroken english or without typing errors and it only gets worse when they try to do speed type without looking at the screen or keyboard. If they're so fast with their fingers, what about their eyes? How much time does it really take them to maybe glance at the screen and look at what they're typing every few seconds, preferably before they hit send?
post #39 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Snowdog74 View Post

Nope. I don't tend to find the home row by looking for the dots. In fact, of the fingers that I actively use while typing... I've found I don't rest them on the F and J keys. In fact, I don't rest my fingers on the keyboard at all.

But even so, I think that this is such a pithy argument against multitouch interfaces because, as I mentioned before, the interface offers more dimensions of feedback than it takes away... many more. When weighed against a physical keyboard for feedback potential, there's simply no comparison.

What feedback does it give?

Quote:
Someone earlier mentioned that without looking down you can be a row off and keying erroneous input... The example used was a physical keyboard. Doesn't this demonstrate that in either case many users really need to periodically look at the screen?

When aren't you generally looking at the screen while you are typing? Unless you're retyping something from a sheet of paper, chances are you are staring directly at the screen or close to it and not staring off into space. This is even more true on a mobile phone. I don't see your point here.

Quote:
Actually I have used flat keyboard terminals and I type with mostly the same degree of accuracy and speed. Additionally, I'm watching my fingertips and they don't actually angle in on the keys. I tend to curl my fingers so that the tips land straight down on the keys without touching any adjacent keys... meaning I don't feel any keys except the ones I'm striking. How can I possibly know which key I'm hitting without looking? I have the layout memorized.

Yes, you have the general layout of the keyboard memorized and depending on what keyboard you're using, your brain automatically compensates based off of the feedback it receives from your fingers. It quickly gauges the space between keys and the size of the keys themselves. And every correct keystroke you make reinforces that.

Quote:
That being said, you can't really key erroneous input on something like the iPhone because if you brush in proximity to two keys, the key to which you have greater proximity is the one that will be selected. Furthermore, in order to actually select it you have to press the key. Additionally, the system in iPhone uses active spell correction to mitigate typos instead of using predictive text input which is horrendous.

What? You can't key erroneous input? If you think you are aiming for the T but end up closer to the R, the iPhone would assume you meant to push R, thus erroneous input. I'm sure you've used MS Word, so how many times has Word offered to correct the spelling on items you knew were correct such as names or terminology? Active spell correction is only going to be as good as the dictionary involved. If in my example I was trying to to type cat, I suddenly ended up with car and the iPhone would have no issue accepting that as my intended input.

Quote:
I also think that people make much more of a stink about being able to type quickly without tactile input. If someone needs to feel around the keys of a tactile keyboard to know where they are, they're going to be slower at typing than I am because half the time of almost every keystroke will be invested in finding the right keys by whatever tactile method they have devised. The only way to type faster than that is to have the layout memorized so that you strike the correct keys the first time without fishing around for them.

I think you grossly underestimate the importance of the tactile nature of the keyboard. Regardless of whether your hand hovers over the keyboard until you actually strike a key, you receive a good deal of feedback from every key you hit. If you get to close to the edge, you are instantly aware and can correct back to center on the next stroke. And if you happen to hit the F or J key and don't register the impact of the raised dot, you are aware of being off-key. Whether you claim to strike directly on center all the time, your brain is aware of that subconsciously and knows it is on target. You don't actively think about these things but they are happening. That will be missing in a device like the iPhone but it will be made up for by the fact that the keyboard and text display are right next to each other. You will practically by default be staring at the keyboard.
post #40 of 53
What's wrong with using multitouch to replace the mouse, and merely as a supplement to the keyboard? Heck, I can see all three of them getting along well.
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