University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine

Magic Touch

A computer you can really grab on to

When Apple introduced the iPhone last year, the product’s new touch-screen technology was heralded as a major innovation. Unlike other hand-held devices, the iPhone has no tiny keys to type or meddlesome screens to scroll through. Users simply tap, pinch or swipe a finger on the phone’s touch-sensitive screen.

To Daniel Wigdor, a PhD student involved in the computer science department’s Dynamics Graphics Project, however, the iPhone’s technology isn’t all that new. Wigdor and others have been researching touch screen computer interfaces for years. Now, he and his collaborators have helped develop a semitransparent, two-sided device that allows users to type on a virtual keyboard with all 10 fingers instead of just one, crop and resize photos and perform other tasks. Because the unit is partially transparent, it avoids what Wigdor calls the “fat-finger problem,” which affects touchscreen gadgets such as the iPhone. In these devices, the on screen item being touched disappears behind the user’s finger. Wigdor’s unit allows users to view their fingers in shadow, as if seeing them through an opaque screen. Small dots, called touch cursors, hover over the fingers to indicate the point on the screen that the user is about to select.

Wigdor and his collaborators at Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs and Microsoft Research have created a usable prototype, but the technology – which they dubbed LucidTouch – is not yet ready for public consumption. The device relies on an attached webcam to relay images from the other side, and Wigdor hopes to fix this problem by embedding sensors in the unit. He’s not sure when the invention will become widely available. “The question is whether there’s a company interested in bringing it to market,” he says.

Recent Posts

Photo of front campus field and Convocation Hall with flower emoji illustrations floating above

Clearing the Air

U of T wants to drastically cut carbon emissions by 2050. It’s enlisting on-campus ingenuity for help

Abstract illustration showing a red-coloured body and face, with small black and white pieces flowing from inside body out of the mouth, and the U.S. Capitol Building dangling on puppet strings from one hand

The Extremism Machine

Online disinformation poses a danger to society. Researchers at U of T’s Citizen Lab are tracking it – and trying to figure out how to stop it

Prof. Mark V. Campbell with a beige background and red lighting

Charting Hip Hop’s Course

Professor Mark V. Campbell grew up during the early years of rap music. Now, he is helping preserve Canadian hip-hop culture for future generations

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *