A Brief History

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The first multitouch system designed for human input was developed in 1982 by Nimish Mehta of the University of Toronto. Bell Labs, followed by other research labs, soon picked up on Mehta’s idea. Apple’s 2007 launch of the iPhone, which is still the point of reference today for multitouch experiences and gestures, popularized a new form of user interaction.

More recently, Microsoft launched Windows 7, Adobe added multitouch and gesture capability to Flash Player and AIR, and a range of smartphones, tablets, and laptops that include multitouch sensing capability have become available or are just entering the market. Common devices such as ATMs, DVD rental kiosks, and even maps at the local mall are increasingly equipped with touch screens.

For an in-depth chronology, please read Bill Buxton’s article at http://www.billbuxton.com/multitouchOverview.html.

Exploring the use of alternate input devices in computing is often referred to as physical computing. For the past 20 years, this research has advanced considerably, but only recently has it been reserved for exhibitions or isolated equipment installations. These advances are now starting to crop up in many consumer electronics devices, such as the Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Xbox, and Sony PlayStation Move.

A playful example of a human–computer interface is the Mud Tub. Created by Tom Gerhardt in an effort to close the gap between our bodies and the digital world, the Mud Tub uses mud to control a computer. For more information, go to http://tomgerhardt.com/mudtub/.

For our purposes, we will only use clean fingers and fairly predictable touch sensors.