CES starts tomorrow but the marketing hype began weeks ago. Thinking about all the demos I’m struck by how long the lag time until mainstream adoption of these things can be.

Of course, new consumer products based on well-known 3D technologies will be pushed heavily. Until plenotic rendering becomes a reality (maybe I’ll blog about that later), 3D will require glasses that limit its usability to situations when you are alone or too engrossed in a movie to care about anyone around you. Let’s face it, glasses are socially awkward, cannot be worn when looking at things other than the screen (say, reality) and will limit the pervasiveness of 3D.

I have also found it interesting that multi-touch is still center-ring of the circus. According to this press release, Multitouch Ltd. will be demonstrating a video cube-based touch wall that is integrated with Twitter feeds so users can spin, scale, etc. their tweets. I’ll make sure to check it out in person, but the demonstration illuminates one of the central challenges of any new interaction model – mass adoption.

Multi-touch has not been widely adopted enough to be seamlessly integrated into what I would call meaningful applications. Instead, outside of a limited few users who need multi-touch for very specific reasons, most demonstrations of the technology center around custom applications.

None of this is surprising. The first computer mouse was introduced in 1965 and didn’t make it into the mass market until Windows 95. This phenomenon is well known, and I refer to it as the phenomenon of social momentum when discussing barriers (or accelerators) to the adoption of particular technologies. A major contributor to social momentum is the adoption of metaphors and not the technologies that they represent. The mouse represents a particular interaction metaphor, folders, desktop, these metaphors contribute to social momentum that can work against the adoption of multi-touch.

Of course, I suspect multi-touch will find a broader home in our computational worlds faster than the 30 years it took to create the mouse metaphor. However, unless multi-touch is able to augment existing interaction models, and not seek to replace them, I suspect we’ll continue to see demonstrations and not products.

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About Christopher Jaynes

Jaynes received his doctoral degree at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst where he worked on camera calibration and aerial image interpretation technologies now in use by the federal government. Jaynes received his BS degree with honors from the School of Computer Science at the University of Utah. In 2004, he founded Mersive and today serves as the company's Chief Technology Officer. Prior to Mersive, Jaynes founded the Metaverse Lab at the University of Kentucky, recognized as one of the leading laboratories for computer vision and interactive media and dedicated to research related to video surveillance, human-computer interaction, and display technologies.

2 Comments for this entry

  • Christopher Jaynes
    January 6th, 2011

    Yo, good points. The mouse adoption curve certainly jumped with the introduction of the Mac.

    Multitouch definitely has been successful when it is vertically integrated into the technology platform (iPhone), but less so when it is layered upon more general technology platforms (i.e. touch on the screen of your desktop or television). Although the touchpad provide multitouch-like capabilities, I was thinking more about the use model of what I call “situated touch”, that is the user is touching the place/data that they want manipulated versus touch on a separate device that acts as an intermediary.

  • yo momma
    January 6th, 2011

    Mouse was standard (and fundamental) to original Macintosh (1984). Multitouch is widespread (think Apple products, mice, touchpads, iphone)

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