Touch Screens: The Future Of Computing Or A Despicably Clunky Fad?

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.

Äshton Kutcher at Lenovo #TECHmyway, Sydney.

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!


Comments

    The problem with most alternatives, such as the leap motion right now, is that lack of tactile feedback. Where is my input in 3D space? God only knows.

      http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/191404-this-weird-exoskeleton-adds-the-sensation-of-touch-to-virtual-reality

      The link above is one of the current technologies they can use, but I think the only way forward is the speed of thought, keyboards are clunky, mouse are known to be good at what they were built for - but not for typing, touch screen was designed for devices that will not fit a physical keyboard/mouse with them at all times (as a way to allow crude input at the most portable level).

      I don't enjoy touch as it misses my touches or just ignores me, I make mistakes when I accidentally brush past with a palm or knuckle.

      I'll not be talking to my devices except when I am alone in a car as it will annoy the people around me and it's so much slower than typing on a keyboard or clicking with a mouse, it also lacks any of the precision you have with other input methods.

      Just because we can do some things, doesn't mean we should.

    Using a PC without a mouse is never going to work for me, but using a mouse on a laptop is a pain in the ass. Touch screen laptops, ultra books and tablets, are the perfect way to go atm.

      You should give something like this a go: https://www.apple.com/au/magictrackpad/
      Works so well on a laptop that I could never go back to a mouse.

        Dude that thing is actually bigger than a mouse! Does it even work with a PC? With a simple touch screen, I don't need to make space for a device, I can just sit laptop on my lap, and go. I use a stylus for finicky stuff.

        Last edited 18/02/15 11:55 am

    I have no problem with Kutcher, I think he is an intelligent guy.
    I love touch interfaces for the things they are great at. Panning, zooming and gestures are really, really useful when they have a direct correlation to real world gestures, it is just so natural.
    But then I bought the big Mac trackpad thingy, and it is a damn godsend to use. Touch is great, it just isn't great for *everything*, and it also can be great on a trackpad rather than on a screen.
    Touch is also great for a lot of mobile work, not having to dig out a stylus to visit websites, use well designed apps, and interace with media.
    For creation, a Stylus is a great tool, I use a Wacom for a lot of my work, and wouldn't be without it.

    I also use a physial control service for Davinci Resolve, and your productivity is insanely better with a proper physical interface (https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/au/products/davinciresolve/control).

    The idea that one interface will be perfect for everything is nuts. Physical interfaces are so much faster than menus and drop downs, a stylus is perfect for sketching and technical drawing and most photoshop work, a real keyboard is best for typing, and a touch interface is great for moving and manipulating media. Use the best tool for the job.

    Need more touch screens with digitizer tech imo. It works quite well as halfway between a finger an a mouse. The pen is easier to carry and store than a mouse, the only downside is it's also easier to lose.

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