Sunday, November 28, 2010

Futuristic touch screen puts the desk in desktop

editor's notebook The future just keeps getting closer and closer these days. Not only do we have iPhones with FaceTime--which, when combined with the iPod Nano (as I'm sure they will be before too long) will come pretty close to creating a mass-market version of Dick Tracy's 2-way wrist TV--we've also got robot cars and, ahem, robot journalists (which I'm trying to keep at bay by way of this terribly sophisticated and never-ending sentence--apparently the roboscribes have trouble with such Proustian gymnastics: Quick! They're coming for our jobs! Hand me another semicolon and an em dash!).
And too, we've got Minority Report-like gesture-driven interfaces and now this: a multiuser touch screen the size of a desk, which curves up to create a, well, desktop like the metaphorical one you may be staring at right now.
I realize some of you will scoff at this device--whipped up by The Media Computing Group at Germany's RWTH Aachen University, and brought to my attention by Engadget--but I freely admit that it fires my imagination.
I can see it combined with the type of Wacom pen-and-tablet device that lets you "draw" directly on screen. As a sometime graphic designer, I'd be in nirvana. I could hunch over in a hard-working, tortured artist kind of way and draw a picture or manipulate a Photoshop file, save a version of it, and then whisk that version across the (horizontal) desktop to see it curve up onto the (vertical) desktop that would now be a perfect bulletin board.
I can see it incorporating the aforementioned gesture-driven technology to allow me to sit back and point at the drawings on my bulletin board to choose the ones I like: I could snap my fingers, say, and preserve those files; then--I don't know--dismiss the rejects with a disdainful backhanded wave and watch them burst into unbelievably lifelike flames courtesy of a supercharged graphics card or an up-and-coming 3D Web technology like WebGL. A client meeting was never so much fun! It's a multiuser device: I could set the client's favorite drawings ablaze, and she could ignite mine! We could create a new videogame! I'd let her win! I'd have to! She's now my only source of income--my journalism job having been stolen by R2-D2!
But enough of my overheated holiday-weekend imaginings; irrelevant asides about robots; and tiresome, tiresome, tiresome--tiresome--syntactical pyrotechnics. Why don't you take a look at the video and share with us your own brilliant vaporware in the comments section below?
(And, yes, I know, we've already had at least one real-life interpretation of the Dick Tracy gadget--and for a long time now. See? I told you the future just keeps getting closer. So close it's become the past. Feel free to point out if and where the technology mashup I've conjured already exists--and when it appeared.)

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