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Return to: 2010 Feature Stories

CLIENT: STANTUM

Jan. 25, 2010 : Tech Bites

WHY IíM EXCITED ABOUT STANTUMíS MULTI-TOUCH TECHNOLOGY

TechBitesI recently had a chance to sit down with the folks at Stantum, makers of the clever multi-touch technology demoed below. The technology has a lot going for it: It can rack an unlimited number of touches; it works with fingers, styluses, or any other input device; it is pressure sensitive*; and it consumes little power when not in use.

I’ll come back to the tech specs in a minute, but let’s talk about why it matters. Before the iPhone came out, touch interfaces were few and far between. The apps that did exist left a lot to be desired. I know this from first-hand experience. My artist wife has gone through a couple of tablet PCs in the last few years, and they fell far short of our expectations.

On the hardware side, the responsiveness and accuracy were poor, and the fact that you had to use a stylus was a pain. (Try losing your stylus while travelling, and you’ll quickly agree that the need for a specialized input device is a Very Bad Thing.) On the software side, the applications just weren’t there. Everything was designed for keyboard+mouse input. The stylus input software was just tacked on top of everything, and it was a pretty poor kludge.

Today things are different. The multi-touch on the iPhone opened people’s eyes to what’s possible with touch. Microsoft also deserves credit for giving touch a more-equal footing in Windows 7—although IMO there is still a lot of work to be done on making touch an integral part of PC apps.

That brings us to Stantum’s innovative multi-touch hardware. Their tech is based on resistive technology instead of the capacitive tech used in the iPhone and most tablet PCs. Resistive screens offers several advantages, but I think the biggest upside is the ability to use any input device—fingers, pens, you name it. (Did you know you can’t even use an iPhone with gloves on? That’s a serious limitation if you want to use the phone outside right now!)

Stantum’s other big feature is its ability to support an unlimited number of touches. This feature is all about the software algorithms. Identifying multiple touches isn’t that hard, but following them is. An interesting side note here is that Stantum’s algorithms are not hardware-dependant—they could theoretically be applied to capacitive screens.

Anyway, the bottom line for me is that Stantum’s tech has the potential to enable applications that are unimaginable today. I never would have come up with the iPhone interface on my own, but now that it’s here is seems so obvious—and that’s why you’re seeing touch interfaces crop up everywhere. Knowing what’s already happened with less-capable screens, I can’t wait to see what celver designers do with Stantum’s technology. I have no doubt I will look back in a few years and say “Why didn’t I think of that?”

*Stantum’s tech isn’t really pressure sensitive—it just measures the area of the touch and translates that to pressure. Still, it’s a pretty cool feature!

Return to: 2010 Feature Stories