The power of touch

Bastiaan Olij bastiaan at
Sun Dec 11 18:10:14 EST 2016

Hi all,

Okay, a little off topic but I think worth a discussion as this is a
weak spot at the moment in the Omnis UI.

Touch interfaces, my line of thought was triggered by this little sales
pitch from our friends over at Microsoft:

When the new Macbook came out a few weeks back at around the same time
the new surface pro line came out one thing I hooked on was the total
lack of a touch screen on the Macbook while it seems Microsoft is making
touch a central technology in their lineup. I commented on this and
rightfully so many of my friends reacted along the lines off "why would
you need a touch screen, whats the point, how could that possibly
improve our business applications? Keep your dirty fingers off of my

Indeed, when I look at our application touch has very little to offer
over a mouse in a desktop or laptop environment. The main appeal seems
to be for those who use graphics software as being able to draw on
screen is a definite plus in a touch environment.

But 3 things have happened in the past few weeks that are making me
revisit this line of thought and this video kinda triggered that for me
and I'd be interested in hearing other peoples views on these.

First was a discussion here in house about a new bit of functionality a
few clients have been requesting, the ability to run some screens in our
application on a tablet device or full sized monitor hanging on a wall
in the office either displaying certain things or allowing anyone in the
office to quickly interact with to perform a simple task. Touch is the
more natural interface in a scenario like this as you don't want a
keyboard and mouse dangling off of it. We could do an iPad application
(or java script client app) to do this off course but our current line
of thought is going in the direction of getting a surface pro (or
similar windows based device, there are cheaper options available) to
run a full copy of our Omnis application for this. This is one area for
us where Microsoft is clawing back ground from Apple, the fact that
their tablets run Windows allowing us to deploy a normal Windows app
where we only need to do minor tweaks to make the UI work.

The second is directly linked to this video and that is my kids who are
very much acting like that little girl in the video. My kids are now 7
and 9 and with a dad in IT are growing up with iPads, mobile devices,
nintendo DSs, computers, etc. My daughter has a little HP laptop she
takes to school, some of her pears have the version with touch screen. A
day doesn't go by where I haven't had at least one question from either
kids why our laptops don't have a touch screen. Both prefer a touch pad
over a mouse (they hate the mouse) which already completely counters my
personal experience but touch stands far above that, they do not
understand why something old fashioned like a mouse pointer is needed
when everything else they use is touch screen based.
When we go to the local JBHIFI (computer/media store) especially my
daughter will spend all time on the surface pro playing with the touch
screen while I browse for movies.
They are both growing up in a world where touch is the primary
interface, the mouse and to a lesser extent the keyboard are seen as
arcane. And I don't say that lightly, even for keyboard both of them
prefer voice to text, a technology that makes me cringe but which they
love. They use the voice button in google, or youtube, or any search
primarily only gruntingly going back to keyboard if the term they are
searching on is not understood by the voice recognition.
Images of Scotty talking to a mouse in Star Trek IV lively spring to
mind, that really is how my kids feel about our laptops and computers.

The third to a lesser extend is Virtual Reality. I'm a big VR fan having
regular plays with all 3 major devices (rift/vive/psvr), owning a PSVR
and hoping to get my hands on the hololens in the not too distant
future. Again its much more my kids then myself that have proven to be
the eye opener here. For me its the realisation of a childhood dream
finally being able to roam around in virtual reality but I see it mostly
as a toy. Watching my kids play something like office simulator or tilt
brush on an HTV vive and you suddenly realise, this is their future. The
ease at which they adapt to this type of interface makes you realise how
this has no other option then be a transformative technology in our
business somewhere in the foreseeable future. While I don't see VR
taking hold very quickly in business, AR with things like the hololens
will, but its far more the tactile interface that makes me wonder what
will come in between. On a quick side note, watch some of the stuff
Microsoft has out there about how they envision AR to be used in
business, they are definitely on to something.

Using my kids as a barometer, they are learning to use their hands and
voice to interact with computers far more then my generation ever did.
Even with desktops taking a look at technologies like leap motion makes
you wonder how much life there really is left in the good old keyboard
and mouse. While I don't think the keyboard will disappear fully as
voice isn't always practical nor good enough, I am feeling more and more
that the days of the mouse as an input device are numbered and that the
keyboard will slowly take a back seat.

Something to think about, what would our world look like? How would we
design business applications like the sort we build in Omnis, in a world
my kids will expect? What will Omnis need to add to stay relevant in
this world?



More information about the omnisdev-en mailing list