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March 31, 2011

Feel the future: 5 astonishing facts about touchscreens


If you’ve ever seen how easy it is for kids to pick up a Nokia N8 and start playing with it, you’ll know how amazing touchscreens are. These days we take the technology for granted, yet this revolutionary interface impacts work and play, creativity, communication, gaming, shopping. In fact, just about everything. But how much do you really know about the power of touch? We’ve unearthed some astonishing facts to help you get a better feel for the future.

The first and most fundamental sense

The largest organ on our body is the skin. Its protective layers guard our muscles, bones, internal organs, and ligaments, while its active function results in the most fundamental of our five senses – that of touch. Touch is the first sense infants develop in the womb, and when they’re born, touch is the most pre-attuned sense, whereas sight and taste take months to fully develop.

The world’s first touch screen

When do you think touchscreen technology was invented? 10 years ago, or perhaps 20? Try 40 years ago. Yep, way back in 1971, the first “Touch Sensor” was developed by Doctor Sam Hurst while he was an instructor at the University of Kentucky. In 1977, his company Elographics developed and patented five-wire resistive technology, the most popular touchscreen technology in use today.

samuel hurst

The first Nokia touchscreen device

Touchscreens on smartphones have only really been popular for the last couple of years. So it may come as a surprise to discover that Nokia launched its first touch screen phone, the Nokia 7710 back in 2004. Its lack of keypad meant you used handwriting recognition or a stylus. One of its most innovative features at time was the ability to let you scribble a handwritten note and send it off to someone via MMS.

samuel hurst

The coolest touchscreen ever built

Not only the coolest, but probably the most unlikeliest touchscreen ever made was developed by a Nokia Research Centre team in Finland in 2010. Bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase freeze frame, they created a 2-metre by 1.5-metre ice wall to show how surfaces around us are gaining computing capabilities.

The most innovative touchscreen app?

There are thousands of apps that make use of touchscreen technology, but arguably the most innovative is Swype. This amazing gesture-based data entry system teaches you to write in a whole new way. You simply connect letters together using a stylus or finger, and predictive text creates words out of seemingly unintelligible squiggles. The current world record text message using Swype consists of 26 words and was typed in 25.94 seconds, which is a speed of 60 words per minute.

Touching as a popular way of interacting with technology is relatively new to us. However, as we’re seeing, the possibilities are endless. It seems certain that smartphones combined with touch will totally change how each of us interacts with our world. But where will it all lead and how do you see us keeping in touch with the future?