In Silicon Valley, it’s an accepted fact that the march of technology outstrips modern concepts of what technology ought to be able to do. It is, for example, the case that there are already bionic “people” in the world, whose artificial processes include fake circulatory systems; working mechanical organs; even silicate skin that can repair itself when torn. They’re not real, in the sense that they weren’t once humans who have now been made bionic – but working models of what are basically bionic men and women do exist.
This is a quick and easy way to illustrate the fact that the computers we use now are unlikely to represent the last word in current computer technology. Take ELO touchscreens as an example. The brand uses an advanced version of the acoustic wave technology common in modern touch screen usage, which aims to deliver much more precise information to its processors about exactly where and how its screen is being manipulated. If it can do that on general sale, there is a strong chance that something even more sophisticated is well into its testing phase too.
The concept of planned obsolescence must be noted here. In any conversation about the march of technology, and certainly one where the central theme is that there’s already a lot of technology out there that we can’t even imagine yet, you have to pay attention to the fact that what we use now is, in a sense, already old news. The latest smartphone has the potential to be obsolete in terms of what else the industry has already developed but not released yet. And the same is true of the ELO touchscreen, or indeed of any touch screen product developed by an industry whose core product is currently the heart of modern communication.
There’s an interesting avenue to explore here, which has to do with whether the touch screen will be the apogee of communications evolution. In theory, devices you don’t even need to prod and poke should be the next stage of the development of personal communications and information equipment. The question, really, is whether the user interface environment for an animal that communicates with the world using fingers (that’s us) could ever be anything other than something you hold in your hand.
There are already rumblings in the scientific world that suggest a next-level development: the ability to interface with communications and information technology with direct use of the brain. This apparently sci fi scenario has in fact been in place for some time. “Brain computer interfaces” have been publically available in a workable form since the late 1990s: and recent research has shown that it is now possible for a person in one country to get a robot arm to pick up an object in another country simply by thinking about it. It is even potentially possible to deliver sense information to the thinker’s hand by way of a two-way interface between the robot arm and the neural net.
The real information technology in the human world is the brain itself. This is where we experience, research, understand the world and ultimate code our sent and received communications. So while the touch screen is a step on the road to a more fluid way of interacting with separately strode information, it seems likely that its future is in the brain.
About Author : Eva Holmes is a computer engineer. She has written several books on the history of interfaces, including one recent one on elo touchscreens.