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  • Touchscreens start touching our lives

    TOUCHSCREENS started as a fad not so long ago.

    Nowadays, however, they are an integral part of our lives. So much so that there is a whole generation growing up without knowing that there was a “ touch- less” world not so long ago. No surprise then that the keyboard and mouse is slowly and gradually becoming redundant.

    Touchscreens are everywhere, from smartphones and tablets to ATM kiosks and in- flight entertainment panels. They are now available from the smallest screens to the largest monitors, with televisions being one screen still holding out from the experience of touch. However, it will take a while for televisions to have touchscreens as at those sizes they will be prohibitively expensive and also unviable — imagine moving your fingers around a 55- inch screen to play Angry Birds.

    At work, touchscreens are improving your efficiency and increasing creativity.

    It is also changing the way students are taught. There are many among us who are still not that used to having touch on a PC, but there is no denying the fact that this is going to be the norm in offices soon. Imagine the ease an illustrator will have if he is able to work directly on the screen, adding elements with a stylus and erasing strokes with his finger.

    The next frontier for touch is the home, where appliances are still controlled by traditional switches and knobs. You could also end up controlling these devices with tablets or smartphones, both powered by touch. Soon, touchscreens will also be flexible, a feat they cannot achieve at the moment.

    IBM has predicted that touch will in the next five years be able to handle texture as well using the vibration capabilities of the phone or tablet. So you will be able to touch the screen to check if the scarf you are buying is silk or satin, the screen being able to convey the difference in texture.

    Scientists in IBM are also developing applications that put to use haptic, infrared and pressure sensitive technologies to ensure that every object on the screen has a unique set of vibration patterns that recreate the physical sensation of actually touching the material. Imagine how this can revolutionise online retail for instance.

    The haptic technology already provides a tactile feedback on many mobile devices — like the small vibration you feel when playing some games. A good example of this technology is seen in some virtual keyboards that give you the feeling of touching physical keys with a small feedback to show it has recorded your touch. Such screens will soon be all over the place, even in your cars. THERE are many innovations happening in this space. One that caught our eye is a company called Tactus Technology that is working on “ microfluidic technology” that will raise the screen in the form of a keypad when you need to type or create buttons when you are playing a game. Don’t be surprised if future smartphone keyboards come with a Braille option using this technology.

    Yes, touchscreens will be where cutting edge technology really touches our lives.

    The next frontier for touch is the home where appliances are still controlled by switches and knobs