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Today I came across a video for a multi-touch, large screen user interface prototype, designed by a company called "Second Story" in Portland, Oregon. I am excited about the direction this will go. I see a lot of potential in this category of UI design. However, I don't have enough experience to be able to predict where this will take the industry.

So, I put it to you...How will multi-touch UI design impact the future of User Experience? Is there anything you can imagine that the user will be able to do that they can't do now?

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Most multi-touch work focuses on gestures that use more than one touch point, e.g. Pinch, Zoom, Rotor, two/three/four finger swipe.

There is another oft-overlooked area of User Interactivity that multi-touch enables: multiple users. At my day job, we have an 82" touch screen with multi-touch capabilities, usually in Landscape orientation. That's so big you can fit about 4 customers in a row all using up to 10 fingers. Clearly, splitting up the screen into fuzzy sections (one per pair of hands) is one option, but developing the UX for multiple users is a whole different ball of wax... do you allow them to explore the app independently or keep them all at the same stage? which user determines progress through the app?

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Cool. I appreciate your answer. I didn't even know a multiple-user UI existed... but it helps me wrap my head around possibilities for future User Experience. Thanks – jffgrdnr Jul 1 '10 at 14:14
I went to a workshop on multitouch at the recent Create10 Conference in Edinburgh, and the biggest point of discussion was how to deal with multiple users. Some questions that came up: Can anyone open/close the app? Or just one super-user? How do you deal with different orientations when the touch surface is a table with users all around it? Are all UI elements public? Or can some be kept private to individual users? – Scott Newson Jul 5 '10 at 10:28

There's a lot going on these days. MS Surface, iPad, Wii, Xbox's Natal, etc. It'll effect UX in that there'll be more UXes to have. ;)

In terms of what's going on now, Luke W has been publishing some useful touch-based UX documentation:

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Thanks - great reference. – Susan R Jun 28 '10 at 14:46

It's a massive paradigm shift imho that will define interaction design going forwards until the next major shift.

The last major shift of this magnitude (imho) was the move from CLI (command line interface) to direct manipulation (courtesy of WIMP...window, icon, menu, pointing device).

This shift takes that concept of direct manipulation one large step forwards, extending the mouse to the hand directly without any mediating device. Also it facilitates dual input using both hands in ways that WIMP wasn't able to. Yes, there has been work on dual mouse interaction (e.g. Celine Latulipe's work) but it seems that touch screens and multi-touch interaction may well have superceded this.


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I agree. I think there are things just around the corner with multi-touch that perhaps we can't predict yet... – jffgrdnr Jun 29 '10 at 13:25

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