I’m both a fan and a detractor of multi-touch, and at the Solstice press event tomorrow in New York City, I plan to wear both hats. I believe in multi-touch, but not in the way it was originally envisioned. You see, multi-touch was largely born out of research into Human-Computer Interaction throughout the early 2000s. The initial focus of this work was on how to enable larger displays with the ability to detect and respond to many touch points simultaneously. Companies like Perceptive Pixel (now acquired by Microsoft) led the charge into markets that wanted better ways to analyze data. This has resulted in a lot of large, touch-enabled displays deployed in markets like oil & gas, financial services, and news broadcasting (remember CNN’s election Magic Wall?)
These displays were a success for particular applications but have never taken off in the general purpose conference room. Why? Multi-touch uses your fingers, and let’s be honest — scaling gestures on large format displays far beyond the size of your palm and, in some cases, beyond the size of your wingspan is impractical. Interaction should be intuitive and seamless — walking, reaching, and gesticulating large motions detract from the goals of smooth presentation and collaboration.
The better and more meaningful place for multi-touch is on devices that are about the size of your hand, thus the popularity of multi-touch on the tablet and smartphone. I am on my way to New York City for a Solstice press outreach event. I plan on demonstrating how Solstice leverages multi-touch to allow people to interact with large format displays in their conference rooms.
Installing the Solstice Client Software on your tablet or mobile device allows users in a meeting to control what is on the screen and how it appears with other media sources – all over WiFi and using the same multi-touch mechanisms we use every day on our own personal devices. For example, I can post a video to a flat panel in the conference room, and then slide it to the side to real other data simply by dragging a finger on my iPad. I can also scale it using the common pinch gesture on my screen. I can do this all without ever having to get up, ask someone to move aside, or use a touch interface on the display at the front of the room.
Don’t get me wrong, I think multi-touch technologies are valuable to the way we interact with our computing environments. But since we all already carry multi-touch devices in our pockets and briefcases to meetings, I wanted to leverage that with Solstice. At the same time, I don’t want the typical wind-span of a user to act as a bottleneck to large, beautiful displays in all of our conference rooms.