Touch Screens

Tablet Wars

It’s a tablet war out there, and I am not talking about pharmaceutical companies. It seems like every tablet manufacturer is facing off against every other table manufacturer trying to build the better mouse trap. There are so many clones out there that you would be forgiven if you mistook one for another. Every company has a new strategy up its sleeve. The amazing price cutting strategy for the Kindle contender for the TXTR Beagle was achieved by doing away with the rechargeable battery and powered it with disposable AAAs as well, while streamlining the product. While I eagerly await a colour e-ink screen, for now the playing field seems quite settled. There are rumours rife of an iPad mini, which makes me wonder, is smaller really the place to be? A 7 inch screen might be nice if you are reading novels on your pad, but for other purposes a larger screen will definitely have benefits.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again. A certain niche of users, really want bigger screens. Think the size of a magazine like Advanced Photoshop or .Net and you are getting the picture. Slightly bigger than an Economist or National Geographic. Why do I think big is what is the need of the hour?  Once upon a time 13 inch monitors were standard, now a 22 inch monitor is standard in certain parts of the world. It is perhaps because of the need to bridge the gap between smaller tablets and larger screens that I see a new trend of slim all-in-one desktops that have a touch screen that can be tilted almost parallel to the desktop so that it can be used like a large tablet. While this is truly exciting for graphic designers who are probably dreaming of a cheaper touch experience to what the Waccom Cintique offers, one wonders what are the kind of applications for the everyday users?

Touch screen desktops till date don’t seem to have caught on as well. Probably we have grown too accustomed to using the mouse in most cases. One thing that will definitely become more convenient is the entire browsing experience. With such machines, you can expect users to touch, flick and browse, and new web designs slowly being optimised for this, removing the fine line between sites optimised for tablet viewing, and the regular site.

What could be the next game changer? The new normal so to speak? Is there anything on the horizon that could shake up the market like the tablet PC and the netbook that preceded it? Apart from flexible displays, my bet would be on projection surfaces and cheap disposable displays. If you could take a pica projector and build in some touch functionality using infra-red, the possibilities would be limitless. Large touch based projections right out of your pocket.

An interesting alternative technology and not quite in the same space was brought to my attention by a friend of mine. Cheap paper thin LED displays manufactured in China for signages. Simple animations were possible by creating different layers with different colours and having the different layers of the lit display switching off and on to generate an illusion. Think the kind of neon signs that Vegas is hallmark for and you will get the picture. Flexible displays and cheaper paper thin displays are probably the way to the future. Till then, yours truly is thinking of investing in an iPad – the full grown one.

Screen Ecstacy

We live in strange technological times. The two most popular advancements in the field of computing these days seem to be Ultra books and tablet PCs. Slim is definitely in. In between are those inventions that lie in between. The likes of the Asus Transformer Prime or the laptop from Lenovo that had a detachable screen which ran its own operating system and acted as a table t  in itself. The new kid on the block seems to be the Asus Taichi.

What makes the Taichi stand out from the crowd is the fact that it has two screens. One on the outside of what is traditionally the ‘laptop cover’ and the normal laptop screen. This is a machine that runs on the new Windows 8 operating system which is optimised for tablet devices. What is really unique about this concept which I think could be leveraged further is having a mirrored display. So activity on one side of the screen is mirrored to the other screen. Now if you made both screens touch screens, this could become an amazing tool for collaborative work. And even if both screens aren’t touch screens, the current configuration definitely promises some exciting possibilities. Watch the demonstration of the video below.


5 possibilities of using the Taichi 


  1. Multiplayer gaming – anything from Battle Ships, Chess to Tennis would be quite interesting with two screens like this
  2. Having an overlay system where one person works and the other person uses the other screen to contribute in real time. Think about group paintings, brainstorming and what not. The app developers will have a field day with this one.
  3. Sales counters. Think of the possibilities for creating interactive displays at shopping check-out counters. Combine this with in store reward schemes.
  4. Interactive tutorials, this is perfect for teaching small classes. It does away with the need for having a full-blown projector setup.
  5. If you had a forward facing web cam, you could finally create a completely transparent desktop. The forward facing cam would create a video of the area facing the desktop while the normal user cam would generate a video of the user in front of the computer. Thus transparent desktops that we see in movies like Avatar and Prometheus would become a reality.