faranim (faranim) wrote,
faranim
faranim

iPhone and Fingerworks

You've probably heard by now (or will be hearing soon) about the new iPhone announcement from Apple. I want to take this entry to share a story which some people might find interesting (or not).

OK so. I went to school at the University of Delaware. There was a professor there named Dr. Elias. He taught my intro circuits course (Resistors, Voltages, Currents, Caps, RLC Circuits, etc) sophomore year. However, his main purpose at the university (like 99% of university professors) wasn't to teach, but for research. Him and another professor had a project called "Fingerworks" which was a touchpad technology.

Fingerworks was pretty cool. It was a large touchpad with a keyboard printed on it. You could type by touching the keys. You could move a mouse by placing your finger on the pad and move it (just like a normal touchpad). However, Fingerworks also did something else. It had special software that would recognize all 10 fingers of a human hand, so if you touched the pad with one or more fingers, it would recognize which fingers were where on the pad. From here, it evolved into "gesture" sensing where certain hand/finger combinations and movements could be programmed as commands. The only ones I can really remember was that placing 4 fingers down and "twisting" to the left would cause an Open File dialog to appear (like opening a jar by twisting left). Similarly, twisting right would close the currently selected object/window. There was a whole slew of hand motions that made handling documents easier (zoom in/out by spreading/contracting fingers, ways to scrolls left/right/up/down, etc).

They used to have a demo station where you could put your hands on the pad, and the screen would show you which fingers were there. You also couldn't trick it by putting your hand down in a weird angle, or criss-crossing fingers. It still knew which fingers were on the pad, where, and how they were moving.

My senior year at Delaware, Dr. Elias and the other professor got a multi-million dollar signing bonus for Fingerworks... from Apple. They disappeared from the University, and took everything Fingerworks with them. I thought, what on earth would Apple (who was known back then only for making Mac Computers, iPod barely existed) want to do with motion and gesture sensing touchpad technology?

Now, iPhone has been announced with "gesture sensing" technology on a full-size touch screen. Sound familiar? I just thought it was kind of interesting how it might relate to Apples purchase of Fingerworks roughly 2 years ago.
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  • Scott Adams is Comedic Genius

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