Researchers have bigger plans for ‘multi-touch’ beyond Apple’s iPhone

“When Steve Jobs demonstrated Apple’s new phone at Macworld recently, the feature that elicited the most ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the audience was the touch-screen interface: it allowed more than one touch at a time. This ‘multi-touch’ technology adds functions such as allowing a person to easily zoom in and out of pictures and Web pages by pinching the screen with two fingers,” Kate Greene reports for MIT’s Technology Review.

Greene reports, “But the full power of multi-touch technology might be unleashed in screens far larger than those on phones. Over the past few years, Jeff Han, consulting research scientist at New York University, has developed an inexpensive way to make large multi-touch screens accommodating 10, 20, or even more fingers. He envisions applications ranging from interactive whiteboards to touch-screen tables and digital walls–any of which could be manipulated by more than just one person. And this month, Han has unveiled Perceptive Pixel, his new company based on the technology.”

Greene reports, “There are many ways to make a multi-touch screen, Han explains. Some of the early designs measured the change in electrical resistance or capacitance on a surface when fingers touched it. But these devices have limited resolution, are relatively complex, and don’t easily and inexpensively scale up to large dimensions. Apple has not disclosed what multi-touch technology it’s using on the iPhone.”

Greene reports, “Some researchers are even developing touchable displays that can touch back. The emerging technology that enables this is called haptics. One type of haptics technology involves a surface that senses when it’s touched and then vibrates at various frequencies, depending on the placement of one’s fingers. This sort of technology could be useful for the touch keyboard on Apple’s iPhone, says Scott Klemmer, professor of computer science at Stanford University. ‘You wouldn’t get the tactile feel of real buttons, but [because of the vibrations] you can tell you’ve touched a real button.'”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Note: We first covered Jeff Han’s multi-touch interface last February with a direct link to video of Han’s UI and a link to Wired’s “Cult of Mac” coverage. At the time, we wrote, “This could change everything. Again.”

In recent days, Han has updated his website with the cryptic blurb, “Yes, we saw the keynote too! We have some very, very exciting updates coming soon- stay tuned!”

Jeff Han’s “Multi-Touch Interaction Research” Web site:

Related article:
Video of how Apple’s rumored touch-screen Tablet Mac could work – February 13, 2006


  1. I don’t mind 10 to 20 fingers on my Mac, as long as they’re connected to the right people, if you know what I mean, wink wink nudge nudge…

    As long as this doesn’t happen, it’ll be OK. (Follow the next few strips for the ongoing touch-screen adventure…)

  2. 5 Years Out…

    The new MBP opens like a book with screens on both sides. When you need to type, the bottom 1/3 of each screen becomes the keyboard. When you video conference, thousands of cameras packed between the pixels capture your image and transmit. When you want to scan or fax you place the picture you want to send on the screen to be scanned and sent.

    If Mr. Jobs has issues with the keys on a Treo, (they’re always there, even when you don’t need them; what happens if you want to add functionality but you can’t add new keys; wasted space when you’re not using them; needless clutter when they’re not needed) you can bet that he’s got designs on clearing them from the laptop, too.

    There’s a video out there that I saw once showing some of these things. Anyone out there got a link?

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