We mentioned Jeff Han and his experimental multi touch interface some time ago. In the year since it was first shown at TED ’06, the system has matured into a viable product…with the first delivery of a multi-touch panel to the US Military for a reputed six-figure price tag.

Fast Company has a nice long article (and video, embedded below) about Han and the technology, and I believe it is telling of what we’ll see in the future of motion graphics and editing interfaces. Maybe not now, maybe not even in 5 years. But it seems all too obvious that someday the cost of ownership will enable multi-touch to be widely used. After all, it’s natural. Imagine software that frees you to create outside of the interface, without being locked into a certain workflow or methodology. Instead of manipulating keyframes and nodes with a mouse, you literally push pixels on screen. The possibilities are endless.

“Touch is one of the most intuitive things in the world,” Han says. “Instead of being one step removed, like you are with a mouse and keyboard, you have direct manipulation. It’s a completely natural reaction–to see an object and want to touch it.”

Shape Sketching lets you draw on-screen as easily as you can with a pencil on paper–then animate these shapes instantly. Down the road, it may be possible to draw Bart Simpson on-screen and instruct the computer in what you want him to do.
“As computers have become more powerful, computer graphics have advanced to the point where it’s possible to create photo-realistic images,” Han says. “The bottleneck wasn’t, How do we make pixels prettier? It was, How do we engage with them more?”

“People want this technology, and they want it bad,” says Douglas Edric Stanley, inventor of his own touch-screen “hypertable” and a professor of digital arts at the Aix-en-Provence School of Art in France. “One thing that excited me about Jeff Han’s system is that because of the infrared light passing horizontally through the image surface itself, it can track not only the position of your hand but also the contact pressure and potentially even the approach of your hand to the screen. These are amazing little details, and pretty much give you everything you would need to move touchable imagery away from a purely point-and-click logic.”

The article is quite long and detailed, it’s well worth the read if this sort of thing interests you.
(Via John Nack)