A passing fad or lasting innovation?
Beautifully designed and responsive devices such as the iPhone have popularized touchscreen technology and placed it in our hands. But touchscreens have been around for nearly a half-century and reaching into our lives in a myriad of ways.
Are touchscreens a fad though? With an ever-growing market and a past that is peppered with dreams for better input devices (think of the movie Minority Report, or Star Trek), I feel it’s safe to say no.
Just looking at technology forecasts answers the question. Projected sales state that 80% of mobile devices in North America and Western Europe will be touchscreen based by 2013.
Touchscreen technology is an evolution
There are many advantages to a touchscreen over other input devices, such as a mouse or stylus. Websites and applications take on new life when someone can use their hand to directly interact with them. Tip a paint bucket to colour a pair of shoes in an online store or place an order for a pizza by dragging on your favourite toppings.
The possibilities are literally endless.
Technology is constantly advancing, and as touchscreens are being refined they are becoming even more immersive. As the telephone has evolved from its clunky corded predecessor to the slim mobile devices we carry today, the touchscreen has a bright future of its own.
The keys are the keys to success
Keyboards are a large factor in determining the staying power of the touchscreen. There’s an element to physical keyboards that’s inviting. On a tactile keyboard you can learn to type without looking at it, which frees your eyes to look at something else. With my old LG Chocolate phone I could type without looking at the screen, which in turn freed me to simultaneously commandeer a spoonful of chicken soup.
With touchscreen only devices however, looking at the screen is essential to hitting the right key, as there is no physical response from tapping a virtual key.
Depending on the device you don’t always have to choose between a touchscreen and physical keyboard. Many devices such as the BlackBerry have both, and some have physical keyboards you can tuck away.
Most mobile devices already have some type of simple vibration mode to tell you when you have mail or a message, but far more interesting interaction is around the corner. Using state of the art technology, you’ll actually be able to feel different textures when you touch your screen’s surface.
When you touch a picture of sand for example, you’ll feel the grainy texture on your device. These types of tactile technologies will draw people deeper into their devices, as they will offer a familiar sense of touch to different interactions.
If you had the super power to create a touchscreen, where would you begin? What problem would you solve with a touchscreen? Before you answer that question, hop over to YouTube and watch Corning’s “A Day Made of Glass” video… It’s brilliant.