The Future is Hands-on

I was so struck by Adam Penenberg’s recent article in Fast Company that I’m going to break my own rule and direct your attention to a totally non-brain related topic: The future of touch screens.

I’m no technofetishist, but even I was blown away by the revolutionary touch screen technology being developed by NYU’s Jefferson Han. Han’s demonstration at the 2006 TED conference left a crowd of tech-luminaries, including Google’s Sergey Brin and Larry Page, speechless:

Han began his presentation. His fingertips splayed, he placed them on the cobalt blue 36-inch-wide display before him and traced playful, wavy lines that were projected onto a giant screen at his back . . . With the crowd beginning to stir, he called up some vacation photos, manipulating them on the monitor as if they were actual prints on a tabletop. He expanded and shrank each image by pulling his two index fingers apart or bringing them together . . .

“There is no reason in this day and age that we should be conforming to a physical device,” he said. “These interfaces should start conforming to us.” He tapped the screen to produce dozens of fuzzy white balls, which bounced around a playing field he defined with a wave of the hand. A flick of a finger pulled down a mountainous landscape derived from satellite data, and Han began flying through it, using his fingertips to swoop down from a global perspective to a continental one, until finally he was zipping through narrow slot canyons like someone on an Xbox.

If you think this description is dazzling, wait until you see a demonstration: The article includes a video clip of Han manipulating his Gibsonesque invention.


  1. #1 ERIC JUVE
    January 19, 2007

    I couldn’t find the link in the article, here is one

  2. #2 Chris
    January 19, 2007

    Wait until you see the Apple iPhone, which uses Han’s technology (which Apple bought and patented early last year)…

  3. #3 R Simmon
    January 19, 2007

    Han is not the first inventor of multi-touch interface technology. It’s preceded by the touchpads and keyboards from Fingerworks (bought by Apple a few years ago–can anybody say “iPhone?”). Even earlier, Bruce Tognazzini developed gestures for a multi-touch interface at Sun in 1993, and he sites previous work I am not familair with.

  4. #4 Gillian R
    January 26, 2007

    I read this went you sent it out to the listserv. So great! I can’t wait for what’s next.

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