It is becoming increasingly difficult to have a finger-free experience on modern computer displays. Most Windows-based laptops now come equipped with inbuilt touch screens as standard. It's the only control method for the vast majority of smartphones and tablet PCs. Even desktop monitors and all-in-ones are getting in on the action. But are touch screens actually an improvement on traditional navigation? Or are we all being force-fed something truly awful? Here's what Ashton Kutcher has to say on the subject. Yes, that Ashton Kutcher.
Tablet picture from Shutterstock
Last Friday, we attended Lenovo's "Tech My Way" seminar which focuses on the role of creativity and entrepreneurship in the development of new technologies. One of the guest speakers was Lenovo product engineer Ashton Kutcher, who gave an impassioned TED-style speech about future computing platforms and the potential for all-new control inputs.
Now, before you all scoff, Kutcher is actually a highly successful venture capitalist who has invested in everything from Airbnb to Uber. While chiefly deployed by Lenovo for his celebrity status, the guy clearly knows smart, profitable tech when he sees it.
Here's what he had to say about touch screen technology at the #TECHmyway event:
A lot of people build to where the puck was instead of building to where the puck is going...All of a sudden, [the industry] decided our finger was the best manipulator we had. So we've been working on these platforms ever since, trying to make them more optimised for finger manipulation. But at a certain point, we should stop and think to ourselves "listen; why did they use a pen in the first place?" There's a reason people didn't want to stick their finger into an ink pot and it's not just because they didn't want ink on their finger all day. The finger just isn't as agile as it could be. I think there will be a more agile pointer than this; it might be your voice or it might even be your thoughts. There's technology that exists today that if you focus hard enough, you can throw a switch with your mind. These can be the input sensories of the future. That's exciting.
It should be noted that Ashton had a hand in designing Lenovo's AnyPen technology, which allows any pen-shaped instrument to be used as a stylus on Yoga tablets. In other words, the company clearly has a pre-existing bias against finger-based touch screens which surely factored into Kutcher's speech.
With that said, we think the guy from That '70s Show is onto something with his "ink pot" analogy. Fingers are unquestionably a bit rubbish when it comes to complex mechanisms like writing. They also require bigger icons and simplified UIs which are poorly suited to a variety of computing tasks. And then there's the whole issue surrounding finger print smudges. Simply put, it's a blunt, unwieldy instrument that should be kept off computer screens.
Well that's our two cents, anyway. We're keen to hear what you think. Do you think touch screens are an improvement over mice or are they the computing equivalent of 3D TVs? Do you use other emerging control interfaces, such as Leap Motion? Do you find it unfeasible that Ashton Kutcher has time to design tablets while simultaneously starring in movies and making babies with Mila Kunis? Have your say in the comments section below!