WOF: Will touch replace keyboards and mice?

By on October 8, 2010, 10:43 PM
[Weekend Open Forum] It seems every year a corporate bigwig predicts the death of some mainstream consumer technology. While most visions are dramatized, there's an obvious trend underway: people are spending more time with mobile devices and less time with traditional desktop PCs. While we'd love to delve into the past, present and future of computing, it's really outside the scope of our Weekend Open Forum. Instead, we'd like to draw your attention to a small fragment of computing evolution: user input. More specifically, touch input.

Industry leaders including Microsoft and Apple believe touch will play a pivotal role in the way we interact with tomorrow's computing devices -- and it already does. Touchscreens exist in seemingly every electronics segment, including cell phones, notebooks, and even printers. Touch is available on consumer desktops, but it's still a niche market. Will that change? Are touchscreens only practical on slate devices or will the technology oust keyboards and mice to become the primary mode of interacting with PCs? Discuss.

User Comments: 29

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cyrusjumpjet cyrusjumpjet said:

I see the touchscreen market increasing in the future as it becomes more practical and feasible to incorporate it into many more devices. I don't think it's quite in the gimmicky status that, say, 3D televisions are in right now. Touch makes sense and now that the technology has developed, I'd venture to say that it's here to stay.

Wendig0 Wendig0, TechSpot Paladin, said:

If it does, they have an extremely long time before that happens. A lot of people, including myself, cannot sit close enough to their monitor(s) to even consider a touch screen because of poor eyesight.

On mobile devices I see this happening much sooner, though I doubt any gamers will give up the keyboard and mouse on their rig. That's like asking a tailor/seamstress to give up their sewing machine.

For the people that currently have touch enabled desktops, I guarantee they just use it as a nifty gimmick to show off to their friends. The tech is still too infantile to be worthy of many specialist uses, such as photoshop, illustrator, or autocad, though maybe a DJ might find it useful.

mccartercar said:

Haven't we been "Touching" all along?

Thinking a different way one could argue that advancing touch technology is at best futile.

Touch is slow, inefficient, and wasteful on more than one level.

Input via brain waves or equivalent signals would have limitless applications and in practice require less material to manufacture.

Also, we only have a set number of physical input options yet brain power is abundantly infinite.


TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Nope. No, no, no....touch screens have their niche and it isn't mainstream computer usage. At the airport check in, at a bank doing a simple withdrawal, buying a movie ticket, scrolling through a device that has no keyboard like an iPhone - that's all fine. But trying to word process a document? Or do a little PhotoShop editing? How about gaming? I can just see myself punching the crap out of my screen trying to kill something.

For mainstream computer usage, I see brain waves controlling PC functions happening before touch screens take over as the standard.

tengeta tengeta said:

Laser keyboards never really took off so I have a hard time believing that touch screens will replace keyboards entirely. I like touchscreens for smaller devices and screens, otherwise I'm clutching onto my keyboard and mouse (well trackball) for the foreseeable future.

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Why no one haven't yet thought of 'touch keyboard' to start with? I think it can be good idea provided the product works and is qualitatively a better experience.

Leeky Leeky said:

I was thinking the same thing Archean.

A touchscreen keyboard, sized like a keyboard, with user configurable keys to perform special functions. Think of the infinite possibilities with configuration for a start:

Changing of certain keys colours

Complete changing of key layout (like the complete removal of un-needed keys during gaming and the ability to move them to the perfect position)

User configurable shortcuts to perform special functions as demanded by the user

Backlighting in absolutely any colour you choose, and at any light level

I think personally, it would be absolutely awesome!

Guest said:

on keyboard you CAN hold the button but not press it,

so in touch keyboard the problem is, if you put your finger on it, it presses that button - and thats crap ! I wont ever keep my hand in air just to wait to press something!


ith the speed the things are evolving - LOOK! We are using Keyboards for a long time now....

couldnt we somehow put on glasses that somehow, transfer us into our computers? and we control it all with our mind? mabe it will be more stressfull lifestile, but we are getting lazy

Guest said:

Touch screen tech will never replace traditional keyboards, it may replace mice. The system reason is that humans need the tactile response from keyboards to touch type. Try touch typing on a screen. It doesn't work. You can't look away and be sure you've hit the right key(s).

For interactive experiences touch is already replacing traditional inputs and this is only going to get better with information overlays from glasses or maybe even contact lenses. You can see the seeds of this technology being experimented with today.

Per Hansson Per Hansson, TS Server Guru, said:

Incase you haven't noticed we have fat on our fingers, when we touch things it leaves a mark.

Great fun to have on ones monitor...

I wont even go in to the fact how much faster a normal keyboard is, or how much better it's tactile feel is vs a solid surface.

Same thing for the mouse...

bugejakurt said:

Very impressive vision but I don't think this will be reached at 2019. What about cost to implement, and cost to buy these touch devices? We better take care of climate changes in the world and help poverty in Africa and other places. All this is nice if everyone is using it.

TekGun TekGun said:

How comfortable is typing going to be on a vertical screen exactly! unless this involves a separate device that sits on your desk and is more tactile than a keyboard then don't see this technology replacing keyboard and mouse for anything other than menu usage.

mailpup mailpup said:

I'm guessing these days few people learn what used be called "touch" typing. With a normal keyboard you don't have to actually look at the keyboard while you type a document. You don't even look at the screen either if you are transcribing text from a hard copy. With a touch screen or touch keyboard that's not possible. For those who hunt and peck maybe there will be no loss in speed but for touch typists, IMHO, it will be aggravating.

Leeky Leeky said:

I'm guessing these days few people learn what used be called "touch" typing. With a normal keyboard you don't have to actually look at the keyboard while you type a document. You don't even look at the screen either if you are transcribing text from a hard copy. With a touch screen or touch keyboard that's not possible. For those who hunt and peck maybe there will be no loss in speed but for touch typists, IMHO, it will be aggravating.

You raise very good points, but I think with the right feedback from touching a screen, and incorporated into a keyboard of the same size as they normally are, it would work fine.

I touch type, and very rarely, if ever look anywhere but the screen when I am typing, but I still feel everything would be Ok given the correct feedback - Like for example keys that vibrate as they're pressed, giving you the "sense" of actually pressing the key "physically".

I'm not formally trained to touch type, so in honesty I don't know if being trained to do it correctly would make any difference or not. I've learned over many years of using computers, so probably have many bad habits, but I can still type very accurately and fast either way.

I honestly believe a touch screen keyboard could offer definite advantages.

Technochicken Technochicken, TechSpot Paladin, said:

As for a touch screen keyboard, I do not think I would be a fan. I have tried a lot of different keyboards, and I have noticed that the thinner the keys get, and less feedback there is, like the new apple keyboards for example, the slower and less accurately I can type. I even have done some typing tests to verify this. On my 11 year old Microsoft keyboard with large and very clicky keys, I can type around 80 words a minute with only 1-3 mistakes. On the thin apple keyboards I can do about 75, but with 8 mistakes, and on my even smaller and thinner netbook keyboard, only about 70 words with a lot of mistakes. (Used this: http://speedtest.10-fast-fingers.com/)A touch screen would only make this problem much worse.

Tekkaraiden Tekkaraiden said:

Not until holodecks are invented.

abe10tiger abe10tiger, TechSpot Paladin, said:

mccartercar is right.... if we use touch, we could be leaving our finger prints in the screen.. lolz..

Guest said:

I'll never surrender my mouse. They will have to pry it from my cold dead fingers.

Guest said:

Well, for one thing, touch screen computers have existed for a long time. I remember back before 2000 when my father had a touch screen Toughbook for work.

Personally, I DO NOT see touch screens replacing mouse and keyboard. First, there is no way you can play video games with a touch screen. And I'm talking about real games such as Modern Warfare, Bad Company, etc., not solitaire or other small games. Second, I HATE touch screens. One of my biggest pet peeves is fingerprints on electronic devices. I'm still in college, and I see several people in my classes with touch screen computers. They NEVER use a stylus (even though it has higher accuracy and won't damage the screen unless they're ******) and their monitor is completely covered with greasy fingerprints.

I will never switch over to a completely touch screen environment. I will continue to use the "outdated" mouse and keyboard.

Guest said:

This is a response to Leeky. Leeky, you said several things that I just wanted to talk about.

"Changing of certain keys colours"

These keyboards already exist. Two examples are the Luxeed U5 Dynamic Pixel LED Keyboard and the Optimus Maximus Keyboard. The Luxeed allows you to change the color of each key to suit your taste, while the Optimus Maximus Keyboard (currently unavailable and being redeveloped) has an individual LED screen on it so you can customize the picture displayed for each key.

"Complete changing of key layout (like the complete removal of un-needed keys during gaming and the ability to move them to the perfect position)"

These keyboards also already exist. The DX1 Input System allows you to place individual keys on a board. These keys can be moved to any position on the board and only keys you want to use have to be placed. The Ideazon Zboard Gaming Keyboard is close, it comes with the ability to swap out different setups for gaming. Not exactly what you are looking for, but close.

"User configurable shortcuts to perform special functions as demanded by the user."

Umm.....Macro buttons anyone? If people were to not just buy the cheapest keyboard possible, they would find that many keyboards have "user configurable shortcuts to perform special functions" (aka Macro buttons). The Logitech G110, G15, G19,G510, the Optimus Maximus, and many of the Saitek and Razer keyboards have macro buttons already. The problem (which won't be solved with the use of touchscreen keyboards) is that the majority of the public doesn't look at the available options.

"Back lighting in absolutely any colour you choose, and at any light level."

Most of the keyboards I already mentioned came with some sort of back lighting. Although most only come with two options for the lighting (on or off). You do have to pay a LOT more for customizable back lighting, which many people do not want to do.

And just so you know, It is NOT my intention to rip on you or to imply/state that you are an ***** for your statements. My intention is to point out to you that these options already exist in some form or another.

PS. Sources/Links to products

Luxeed: http://www.thinkgeek.com/computing/keyboards-mice/cb22/

Optimus Maximus: http://www.thinkgeek.com/computing/keyboards-mice/9836/

DX1: http://www.thinkgeek.com/computing/keyboards-mice/77ba/

Ideazon: http://www.amazon.com/SteelSeries-PW1USE1-B3ZBD01-Ideazon-Zb

Saitek/Razers: http://www.xoxide.com/gaming-keyboards.html

Logitech: http://www.logitech.com/en-us/keyboards/keyboards?WT.ac=bc|2

-- Retix

Mike Mike said:

I think everyone has touched on some important, and probably negative factors relating to touch screens.

What Per said, I think the idea of cleaning a touchscreen surface, no matter how cool or high-tech, will get as old as constantly cleaning the screen of my Droid. I like the accessibility and accuracy of keyboards and I can't imagine a touch replacement taking over, unless it's just for the novelty factor. I don't imagine that a tablet or touchscreen laptop will replace standard controls for the business world, writers, bloggers, gamers, etc.

In response to the idea of extending your arms to use a touchscreen monitor this was listed on Wikipedia: "Hacker slang defined Gorilla Arm as the failure to understand the ergonomics of vertically mounted touch screens for prolonged use. The proposition is that a human arm held in an unsupported horizontal position rapidly becomes fatigued and painful, the so-called "gorilla arm". It is often cited as a prima facie example of what not to do in ergonomics."

And yes, all this would change if we could just invent a holodeck. Get to work people.

Tanstar said:

No. Touch screens do not replace keyboards and mice. I don't want my screen that close to me.

ET3D, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I can think of several reasons why keyboards could be marginalised:

The tablet / smartphone format will become more common. These devices will be powerful enough to do much of what people want. As a result people will be more used to touch interfaces.

Most people don't need to enter a lot of text anyway, so even if keyboards will remain useful for text bashing, they will be needed only by people who enter a lot of text. Kind of like numeric keypads are only truly useful for people who deal with numbers all day.

While some people swear by a keyboard and mouse for gaming, most hard core gamers play on the console with a controller. Replacing keyboards with touch will not affect them at all. Most casual gamers shouldn't have any problem moving to touch.

I can't guarantee that touch will succeed, though I think it will, but what I can be sure of is that like for most successful consumer technologies and products, such as netbooks or the iPad, posters on tech sites (who are a minority of consumers) will continue to predict its failure, be baffled by its success, and call people who like it names.

not understand why consumer oriented technology succeeds,

Gars Gars said:

i was wander how long it takes to surface here

in a every-day-use (for the more of the ppl here) - no way

but we are not the exact target of this technology

it's a matter of time and we will be forced by the users to get a grip

/thats answers the last question from previous post (imo)/

i still have 2 (all-most)brand new ffd-s and a box with disks for them

the last time that i used this chunk of technology was a 4 years ago

so, why im keep em?

maybe touch devices will need a drivers from ffd? i dont think so

just the old habits die hard

ruzveh said:

No it will never happen. Keyboard and mice will always b there with us atleast for ppl like me who hate touch screen and still likes to go with traditional method of computing... KM are much comfortable than a touchscreen interface be it mobile or PC

Lokalaskurar Lokalaskurar said:

I can see a potential replacement for traditional mice in business environments, simply because of the resources (big money) and ergonomical advantages.

Although much consideration must be taken when it comes to gaming... otherwhise we might just get another wiimote on our hands... with frustrated gamers who instead of throwing their wiimotes on the screen, decides to punch it oldskool. Nasty.

Ordinary keyboards might get a significant upgrade before 2019. A great question that arises would be if traditional CAD-designers want to give up the mouse's precision and go for their fingertips. If so, then hopefully nimble ones.

New generations will be more likely to adapt to a wide use of touch technology, but as with almost all technologies, some will be quite frustrated over the lack of buttons...

Phraun said:

Give up my mouse and keyboard? Hell no... Touch is inferior on so many levels for gaming. It might eventually get around to replacing keyboards if they get some kind of material that depresses and provides feedback for button pushes, but as it stands now, that's a really long way off.

Guest said:

Video's depiction of the importance of the devices&design is a disgusting illusion. The user in video appeared to gain no extra efficiency/value from the usage of these devices... However, I consider the mobile phone vision interesting.

madboyv1, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Rather than replace devices that already exist, I'd personally would like to see OLED and touch technology integrated into glass and plastics, such as a car windshields, motorcycle helmets, or even glasses. The idea of having a real heads up display that can be dynamically positioned/controlled/changed is very appealing to me, and likely many others.

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