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All the display companies were showing off their cool new products at Display Week in Boston. In your opinion, what are the up-and-coming display trends, and what trends are currently in the market that you expect to decline?

Dear Steve,

At last, a question that is 100% opinion and therefore has the possibility of being 100% wrong. Overall, Touch Guy thinks there was nothing new at SID that would be of practical use to the average Joe or Josephine. There were lots of new ways to make the same things. In the past two years we have had 3-D displays (with and without glasses), LCD windows (see-through LCD’s, this time used to expose the contents of your refrigerator), and reflective color-LCD’s (your Kindle in Technicolor), which are still a’watin customers. This year is another year where the printable display (OLED) was a no-show. Twisty LCD’s made a comeback, and Apple commercialized an even prettier LCD (we need a Moore’s law for pixel resolution). Touch Guy thinks we should close the display division of the patent office and send all of the red-tape workers over to the social networking and internet security/warfare sections. (It is an urban myth that President McKinley tried close the patent office in 1899 because “everything had been invented”.)

For the last several years we display-professionals have been doing a good job of turning Gene Roddenberry’s Star-Trek fantasy into reality. The perception has been that the next big breakthrough will be the invention of the Holodeck. But the Holodeck seems like a long way off…Looking at the Holodeck concept TouchGuy_Basicrealistically, the power required to support video projectors and 1000 inch displays will likely be impractical. So instead, our concept will likely shift to tiny-3D displays in goggles with an awesome set of stereo ear-bud speakers (the Gen X gamers will like this better). Goggles do not actually you to move as you would in Roddenberry’s vision, and these tiny displays are a good reason to dust off the Gen 4 TFT LCD fabs that litter the Chinese landscape.

At the Future of Touch and Interactivity Conference, Geoff Walker gave compelling talk on why touch screen companies will continue to prosper (whew, Touch Guy can stop checking his social security statement) and Mark Finn continued to justify why we will be more interactive with our displays by waving body parts around in proscribed ways that he calls gestures.

Lest you think Touch Guy too cynical, there were a few note-worthy trends: 3M was showing a 360 degree privacy filter for those people trying to nonchalantly peek over the top of your laptop, read upside down, and steal your valuable data (Touch Guy has no valuable data not already shared with Google, so he will not be buying this). Nano-everything was in the air (here’s hoping those particles do not cause lung cancer (kidding), and there was micro-glass so thin that it could only be transported and processed with another piece of thicker glass. The Corning Gorilla (glass) has been joined by a Japanese Dragon and a German party called Xensational – more tough animals are rumored to be on the way… Check out Touch Guy’s white paper on toughened glass.

Good things to look forward to. Wake me up in 2014.

My engineers claim gestures on multi-touch resistive do not work nearly as well as they do on projected capacitive (PCT) used in a variety of consumer devices, like the iPhone – why is this? Have there been any recent breakthroughs with resistive multi-touch? I would appreciate any new input on this subject.

Hi Alex:

When you are comparing iPhone/iPad projected capacitive (also called PCT or P-Cap) to any other (even identical) projected capacitive sensors, you may not find the performance to be as good as Apple ’s product. How can this be? It is because Apple has had a really big head-start (as in years). You and yours are playing catch-up, and it will take a while for you to integrate the prior art (yes, Apple did not invent multi-touch) with the new, to achieve the same thing.

Here is a good example: Using a multi-touch demo, you can use the pinch gesture to make the picture really small….so small, that you will not be able to “catch” the corners and expand it…it will stay really small untilTouchGuy_Basic you reset the program. Apple has anticipated the picture getting too small, so their software will accept nearby fingers and “guess” that the user wants to expand that photo, and it will. There is a lot of anticipation in the iXX software that makes it better than your stuff. Touch Guy is a hardware person, so you can guess that he will point the blame finger at the software folks.

Now to your original question… MARS is different only in the pressure required to enable the gestures. Otherwise, the gestures should be the same and the performance the same as projected capacitive and better, of course, with input from pens and pencils. Keyboard entry is noticeably better with sure-footed MARS than with projected capacitive, which seems to often “guess” wrong at which key you wanted (auto correct to the rescue).

For more info on multi-touch, check out Touch International’s Putting the ‘Touch’ in Multi-Touch White Paper.

Touch Guy