Fingerpainting Once Again: Six Predictions for the Future of Touch Panel Displays


Editor’s Note: Mark Fihn, publisher of Veritas et Visus, a group of newsletters dedicated to the flat-panel display industry, gave a keynote presentation at the recent 2011 AIMCAL Web Coating Conference in Reno, NV. In his talk, he predicted what might lie ahead for touch panel displays and our interaction with these devices.

By Mark Fihn

As young children, among our very first lessons in life, we learned to paint with our fingers. We’ve now come full circle — the rapid evolution of touchscreen technologies has helped create a useful and very popular way for us to once again use our fingers as a tool to immerse ourselves directly into the content we’re working with. With a view to identifying some of the new developments that will serve to create entirely new markets and quite novel ways to interact with devices of all kinds, here are six general predictions for the future of touch screen displays.

But first, it’s important to review the, at least, five distinct aspects of touch that the human brain registers. They are:

  • Mechanoreception – related to tactile feeling
  • Equilibrioception – related to balance
  • Thermoception – related to temperature sensing
  • Nociception – related to pain
  • Proprioception – related to motion and awareness of the body in space.

1. Explosion of hybrid touch technology offerings. One of the reasons that so many touch technologies are currently competing for a position in the market is because none of the existing technologies perfectly satisfies the needs of the application. As such, numerous developments are underway to combine more than one touch technology into a single solution – thereby broadening the usage model. It’s quite predictable, that in the absence of technology breakthroughs that satisfy all user needs, that hybrid approaches will continue to be introduced into the market.

2. Haptic feedback. Studies indicate that the human sense of touch is enhanced significantly by both audio and force-feedback cues. Without such extra-sensory feedback, touching a glass-like surface is unappealing, (which helps explain the sounds we receive with regard to a typewriter and the keystroke response of a typical computer keyboard). Even the sound of a pencil on a sheet of paper provides feedback cues that are helpful to the user. As such, it’s very likely that the touch screen market will increasingly include haptic feedback technologies. There are several haptic technologies competing for a share of this growing market, and there will be a bit of a battle to identify the best haptic solutions for the future.

3. Non-touch interactivity. The popularity of Nintendo’s Wii has demonstrated a need for enhanced motion recognition and digital interaction with display devices. Both Sony (with its newly released Move) and Microsoft (Kinect) have signaled a substantial response to the Wii – enabling much more sophisticated interactive capabilities. We’ll almost certainly see these sorts of gestural solutions gain favor in the home and the workplace – ultimately replacing the traditional remote control, and perhaps even making inroads into the mouse market.

4. Indirect touch solutions. The notion of “touch screen” technology predisposes one to consider touch technologies that directly address the surface of the display. But there are many surfaces besides the front of the screen that can be used to manipulate data on the screen. Consider the backside of a smart phone. Rather than obscuring the images on the display with your fingers, the touch interaction could be easily shifted to the back surface of the phone – functioning to some extent like a mouse.

5. Interaction with 3D displays. Stereoscopic 3D-display technologies have recently gained mass-market attention, particularly in the TV space but also in various PC announcements. One of the biggest challenges associated with 3D displays is that most user-interface technologies, (including touchscreens) register in only x/y space.  Manipulating images in 3D space has not been developed in concert with the emergence of the 3D-display market. Although 3D mice and camera-based solutions have been developed to recognize user inputs in 3D space, the technology is still in its infancy. It’s predictable that, in the coming years, we’ll see more and more developments related to interacting in 3D space – across all applications.

6. Any surface can be touch-enabled. Think of walls, carpeting, tables – non-display solutions.  Our sense of touch is used everywhere – and will be digitized.

My Thoughts:  Mark offered a wide-ranging review of current and potential developments in this area of high-tech converting. Yes, converting is a lot more than just packaging. Its numerous processes—solution and vacuum coating, laminating, slitting, sheeting, finishing—are all part and parcel when it comes to manufacturing many of the computer devices that we’ve come to take for granted. And converters will be there tomorrow to help create the tools that exist only in a designer’s mind today.

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One Response to Fingerpainting Once Again: Six Predictions for the Future of Touch Panel Displays

  1. Pingback: Fingerpainting Once Again: Six Predictions for the Future of Touch Panel Displays | Converting Guide

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