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Summary:

Rob Bushway of GottaBeMobile recorded a video demonstration conducted by Hilton Locke of Microsoft that showed off the touch enhancements that Vista will provide for touch screen computers.  The touch enhancements have been a big interest item for me since I first heard Microsoft was planning […]

Rob Bushway of GottaBeMobile recorded a video demonstration conducted by Hilton Locke of Microsoft that showed off the touch enhancements that Vista will provide for touch screen computers.  The touch enhancements have been a big interest item for me since I first heard Microsoft was planning them for Vista, after all I have been using touch screen devices for as long as anyone.  The enhancements include the Touch Pointer which mimics a mouse on-screen allowing for hover mode, something that touch screen Tablets running Windows XP lack.  I watched Rob’s video with great interest and took a few days to ponder what I had seen and today I watched it again, wondering if perhaps I missed something.

In the video Hilton shows how the Touch Pointer works with fingertip control.  There is a depiction of a 2-button mouse on the screen with a cursor that sits off to the side of the mouse image, that looks like this:

Touchpointer

It looks pretty cool as Hilton demonstrates it and only appears when you use your finger and not a stylus, which is pretty intelligent.  I have to admit that I have never used this personally so my confusion may be one of ignorance but to me it looks like a step backward from the UMPCs running Windows XP today.  For me, there is nothing easier than tapping the screen with my finger and having the cursor appear exactly where I tap.  I can close windows, drag things around, and even affect a right-click by holding the item for a bit as I have configured the Tablet settings to do so.  In the video, it seems very confusing to me that the cursor is off to the side or corner of the mouse, and depending on how you are moving your finger the cursor changes to a different side of the mouse.  Watching the video you can see the actual cursor jump from the upper left corner of the mouse to the right corner, down to the bottom left corner, you get the picture.  This seems like a total loss of precision over my current method of simply tapping on whatever I want to do.  The moving cursor of the Touch Pointer is very disconcerting to me and even Hilton had trouble doing some of the things he wanted to do because the cursor kept jumping around.  It is also apparent that my days of simply tapping a button with my finger and having an action performed may be numbered because the Touch Point requires you to move the cursor over the button and then tap the left mouse button on the image, which is not under the cursor.  It’s like an extra step is required over what we have now.

I realize that I may not have the whole picture from this short video and I would love for anyone who has used this to chime in here to set me straight.  I know that this "enhancement" is largely designed to provide a hover capability that active digitizers have but I can get the same hover benefits from my UMPC now by dragging my finger over the object where I want to affect a hover action and releasing it.  The palm rejection technology that Hilton demonstrated as part of the touch enhancements is definitely very cool and is worth the price of admission to upgrade to Vista but we already are seeing some devices running Windows XP that incorporate it such as the Fujitsu P1610 and the Flybook that Kevin demonstrated in his great video review.  Even so, I fail to see the benefit of this new Touch Pointer and the loss of simple control that I perceive it brings.  So please set me straight if you can because right now I feel I am missing something.

  1. It would seem to me that the pointer is the wrong way to go. It’s not just you.

    It looks like a stopgap measure to provide fine control of an interface that wasn’t built for touch. This is where gestures come into play; instead of having a bunch of small buttons, assign them to natural gestures.

    As far as the hover capability, you could always use pressure sensing for that.

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  2. It appears that you can tap directly on a position with a finger and the mouse appears with the cursor at the centre. Flicking the mouse will cause the cursor to take an offset position to allow better visualization for fine control. The direction of the flick changes the cursor position relative to the mouse. Tapping elsewhere repositions the mouse with the cursor centered again. This looks pretty useable to me, as you can still tap away if fine control is not needed.

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  3. It really does come down to personal preference on usability and personal preference. I struggled with the touch pointer, but others love it. It does allow finer control over menu items and buttons that are difficult to touch.

    The palm rejection as demoed in the video is actually a combination of hardware and software – you still get hover becuase you the screen still used electromagnetic technology. This is different than how the Fujitsu p1610 works. The p1610 is only a touch system with palm rejection, but does not offer any hover capability and does not work with an electromagnetic pen.

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  4. it is also important to note that this is functionality that you can turn on or off. you don’t have to use it

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  5. With the Samsung Q1, we have this kind of virtual on-screen mouse. I use it because i’m a fan of Strokit, the famous mouse-gesture freeware. So i need a right click without menu to be able to draw the request (launch Word with W, Firefox with F, a single line for extend, minimise…..)

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  6. Since we are on the subject of touch screen. Can anyone tell me the difference between a resistive touch sensitive screen and a non-resistive touch sensitive screen?

    Cheers

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  7. So how do you turn this off? Does anyone know?

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  8. Control Panel -> Hardware and Sound (if you’re using home view) -> Pen and Input Devices -> Touch tab -> uncheck Show the Touch Pointer

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  9. Hi Folks

    To start I must admit I am not as experienced as James in Tablet computing.. But I am a 30 year microcomputer & PC veteran having been formally schooled in the art in 1978.

    I am not learn-ed in Tableting like he. Partly because 3 Tablet implementations I own and many tried to date fail to work or fail to demonstrate a productive computing environment.

    To be quick off the mark I concur, after a few days of testing the Hilton Virtual Mouse is more a work around then a fix to what ails Windows Pen computing.

    As to the details……

    I own Averatec , OQO, & HP TX1120/1220 PC’s and HP IPAQ’s all with Pen hardware. All are basically dysfunctional with either OS/Driver bugs, weak implementations, slow response or other problems. Going back in time my first PC job at HP was with the HP150 Touchscreen PC in 1980. It won few hearts & minds in the PC industry. Or at least if failed to win critical market share.

    That said I can tell there is much to learn from you and from ongoing experimentation with Tablet, Pen & Slate products.

    After 12 years of happy work with Handheld PC’s & HP Pamtops I’ve found myself stuck with Touch & Pen ‘malware’ for the past 4 years now..

    As to your write up of Hiltons Touch Pointer “virtual mouse” it is far from perfect. I agree.

    But nor is a Pen & Windows interface that does not inform users that when they touch the screen they are committing to two actions at once. IE Moving the Pointer to that location & Pressing the Left Click button. This flaw is A serious strike against XP Pen computing in my opinion.

    Pen use as one shot Point & Click does not make pen computing backward compatible with defacto Windows pointer & mouse techniques, nor with any software that expect Mouse & Click as the Human Interaction norm.

    The best example is the Windows Desktop GUI itself. Millions of experienced XP/Vista users who are Pen or Touch neophytes have no or obscure feed back telling them the Left Mouse button is depressed as soon as they touch the screen on their desktop. There are many screen areas in Windows and in Windows system applications that have nill visual result from left mouse clicking. And if you drag from those points the pointer moves but does not interact in context. In this lies a fundamental flaw in Pen software for both XP & Vista. Even Vista Touch/Stylus training does not inform users touching the screen causes a left Click.

    Hiltons Pointer scheme with a pen makes sense as an legacy aid or crossover tool for Mouse users. But lacks the convenience potential of a Pen as you point out. I concur it is more a crossover aid than good UI.

    Also I believe an XP style display pointer when touch/pen manipulated must cue users with the implied left click state. Like the force & audible feedback of a Mouse button. It needs to include both visual and audible clues as to the button state. Visual left click feedback could be as easy as changing the color of the left half of a pointer to visually cue users.

    As to Pen interaction, for now I believe a successful passive Pen implementation must come with an actual button. At least as a user option. Either a Pen or Display bezel programmable button and or Dual touch implemented as a Left mouse button.

    I say this Primarily because our legacy GUI industry expects that type of interaction. Without Dual touch or a Pen based button, this implies two handed interaction. At least for some software such as CAD or paint software or for legacy games programs.

    To make hover work cleanly discrete move & click functions are also needed. Hover does not work as you depict in my TX1120 Vista SP1 Tablet with Touch Pen. In applications tested the first item hovered over failed to render any hint. I’ve found Hover to fail on other Touch products I’ve tested also.

    In terms of moving to true Windows pen computing. I believe the big problem lies in a lack of hardware context sensitivity in System & Application software. Most does not go far enough to discriminate between Mouse & Pen user interfaces. And in the case of passive pens, the operational difference between pens and mice are huge.

    To conclude I believe, Windows XP/Vista Tablet, it’s related hardware and most derivatives of tableting have won few hearts & minds to date in the Personal computing world, including mine. Most of the products & implementations to date look more like Malware then functional implementations of the Pen or Slate computing dream. Thanks to the iPhone Touch Products are beginning to win consumers pocketbooks but I fear they’ll be ill sold.

    To date many hearts & minds are lost pursuing this dream.. Give them a beer or some whisky.. But many many many remain untried as well.

    Lets hope industry does a better job of implementation crossing over from legacy windows computing to screen interactive computing. They must properly support & fix what they sell too!!! There is much to beware of and much work to do.

    Cam Rawlinson AScT
    Victoria BC
    Canada

    I should add as of this date Hilton’s Virtual Mouse Pointer , and the Touch Tab Control Panel are NOT available on my 2007 TX1120 or 1220 Touch Tablets. Even his concept is nothing but a dream.

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  10. The use of the Touch Pointer in Vista is merely an added convenience; you don’t have to use it at all if you don’t want to. When I find a particular spot that’s hard to hit (I use a Dell SX2210T Touch Screen placed in a media cabinet as an interface for my HTPC, so I’m usually looking down at the screen and sometimes my aim is off a bit), the virtual mouse is a great help.

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