Most of us love to flaunt electronic devices that has shrinked well in size. But, how do you handle its operation with your over sized fingers. Patrick Baudisch and his student Gerry Chu from the University of Toronto have come to the rescue of customers who love touchscreen devices and are gifted with fat fingers.
A "see-through" prototype device called NanoTouch is the solution to the "fat finger" problem, which makes it hard to hit small targets on a touchscreen device because the finger hides what the user aims for.
Patrick Baudisch and Gerry Chu have revealed that their prototype has a six-centimetre screen and a touch pad of the same size on the back, which can detect the touch or press of a finger, allowing the user to move a tiny cursor around and click and drag with it.
The researchers say that when the user touches the interface on the back, an image of a finger appears behind the icons on the screen and moves around in sync with the user''s finger, almost as if the device were transparent. According to them, a small active spot marked on the finger''s end is used to interact with buttons onscreen.
With a view to completing the illusion, the team have made the device in such a manner that the fingertip turns white as if pressed against a sheet of glass when the user presses on the touchpad. The researchers have revealed that targets just 1.8 millimetres across appeared to be easy to hit in user tests on NanoTouch.
Targets on conventional touch-screen devices such as the iphones are at least twice that size, they add. Baudisch says that the precision achieved by his team paves the way for truly tiny devices with screens as small as a centimetre across.
This precision paves way for tiny devices, with screens as small as a centimetre across that are still easy to use. Further user tests with NanoTouch simulated those smaller devices by reducing the active area of the screen. Even a screen just 8 mm across will be easy to use. However, displaying information on such small screens will need some new approaches, the researcher said.
"We are particularly excited about rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) as a means for compressing data into small spaces," New Scientist magazine quoted him as saying.
Stephen Brewster, a computer interface expert at the University of Glasgow in the UK, said that the NanoTouch prototype was "compelling".
"Touch screens are the interaction surface of the moment, but they do have their drawbacks. Occlusion by the finger is a real problem. Patrick has a nice approach to solving it. (Now) we can start to design really small devices such as interactive watches that have really good interactions," he said.
The NanoTouch prototype will be presented at the Computer and Human Interaction conference in Boston, Massachusetts, in April 2009.