October 3, 2007 Sharp yesterday began publicly demonstrating a new technology that could have far reaching effects on the way we interact with the mounting tide of mobile information available to us through diminutive devices such as smart phones, PDAs, cameras and UMPCs – the marriage of sensing function with an LCD screen is not new, but Sharp’s technology puts an optical sensor into each pixel enabling the screen to become a multiple touch-point screen and a scanner. The technology is a simple one to understand, but one that has massive implications as it is a fundamental building block in the next generation interface. The company demonstrated map-resizing and re-orientation with a multiple (fingertip) touch point interface, scanning a business card by placing it face-down on the screen, and a multi-touch interface for accessing music, but that’s really only the start of something new and very significant – we’re pleased to say that yesterday, we saw a glimpse of the future of the touch screen interface that will enable us to wrestle the information in these devices into submission, or should that be mutually-beneficial-co-existence.
There’s so much more to write about this subject yet our access to the technology was brief, and the demonstration was there to show that the technology works, and to indicate to the developers of the world that there’s something significant about to become available and to get ready for it.
Samples shipments of the new 8.9cm 320 x 480 (half VGA) touch screens will become available in September, with volume production slated to start in Q2 of 2008. In our mind, that means that by mid to late 2008, many handheld devices will suddenly have remarkable new capabilities, and when looking at the capabilities of this device, I couldn’t help but wonder what the likes of Apple’s CHI department r the folks at Wacom will do with the capabilities of this screen – it is a level of sophistication beyond what is available now, and doesn’t need a film over an existing LCD screen to work. Apart from never needing to calibrate the device’s touch screen as you do now, the result is a clearer, better quality of image, plus a range of new applications such as, for example, fingerprint authentication.
The implications for LCD screens becoming multi-function devices are also huge, as the technology offers a fingertip interface and scanning capabilities.