2009: the year of see-through devices?

When looking at the future of digital interactions, we’re bombarded with dozens of multi-touch interfaces. Although this technology looks really promising, it still has a lot of downsides. One of the most evident one, when looking at small screens, is the fact that your hands block the view of your display. Fortunately Mitsubishi, Microsoft and the University of Toronto are working on a possible solution.

Some time ago these three have been working on a prototype called LucidTouch; ‘a See-Through Mobile Device.’ This new system is focused around a multi-touch screen, but instead of controlling it from the front you control LucidTouch from the backside. This works because the screen is semi transparant, displaying both the information on the screen and showing the position of your hands (see video). Because of this you are able to control the system very fluently, like a Gameboy or PSP (Playstation Portable). This means that you are finally able to completely focus on the screen, fully experiencing what’s happening there.

One of the latest developments in the Touch experiments is nanoTouch, going even further in trying to find solutions for ever shrinking multi-touch devices. In this experiment they created a 2.4-inch screen with a touch pad on the backside. According to researchers you’d be able to easily control objects of 1.8mm in size.

At the moment LucidTouch and nanoTouch are still in a proof of concept stage. The semi transparancy is created by a big camera attached to backside. Hopefully this can be integrated in the future. Nonetheless it’s still a strong experiment, which could seriously increase the usefullness of mobile multi-touch interfaces. With every shrinking displays this technology will keep it workable. Maybe a good solution for a iPhone Nano?

Jeroen van Geel

Jeroen van Geel is founder/chief kahuna of Johnny Holland and the interaction director at Fabrique [brands, design & interaction], a Dutch multidisciplinary design agency. You can follow him on Twitter via @jeroenvangeel.

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