in UX/IA

The Value of the Stylus Pen

In his post Apps and the Apple TV David Barnard (@drbarnard) wrote that “direct manipulation of objects on a touch screen device is a fundamental change in human-computer interaction and is undoubtedly the future of most, if not all, consumer computing devices. The age of the mouse is ending, but the implications are still unclear to most.” And as much as I can agree that multitouch screen is having a great impact on our interaction with computers, I cannot agree that the best solution is to replace the mouse with the touchscreen … only.

In order for the touchscreen to really be different from the mouse it cannot be “just” a touchpad. And even though the latest models of touchpads that allow users to use gestures make a worthy rival to the rodent on your desk, they are still tools by which you manipulate elements on the screen indirectly. As for the touchscreens, to be at least a bit useful they cannot be positioned vertically like a regular monitor but they have to be placed on the table. But the biggest problem of the touchscreen will not go away, if we only put the screen in front of the user: our fingers are not a very precise input devices. If you happen to have fat fingers you know what I am talking about. So, it is necessary to find a solution to this problem before we can throw the mouse away.1 That is why – although it may be quite true for the tablets – I cannot agree with Steve Jobs’ assertion“It’s like we said on the iPad, if you see a stylus, they blew it.”

Actually I think that stylus pen has a bright future ahead of it. And if you still do not believe me, watch this fascinating exploration of manual dexterity.

1 At this point I have to make clear that we are still talking about touchscreens replacing the mouse and not necessarily the keyboard. Personally I think that keyboards are going to stay with us for a while longer.

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