Multi-Touch Technology And Where It's Going Next…Oh And Apple Didn't Invent It Either!

Like everyone else who listened to Jobs’ keynote last week, I was tickled pink to see the touch screen iPod finally be released. And I almost wet myself and shrieked with glee like a little school girl when Stevie boy announced the touch-screen iPod combined with the highly rumored iPhone. Just ask my co-workers because they thought I was having some sort of seizure or joygasm. I was even more amazed and intrigued at the ‘Multi-Touch’ technology that Apple claimed to have invented. I met up with my brother the other night and we were discussing how cool the iPhone was and how we both wanted to get it. Then he let me in on an interesting fact about how a company called FingerWorks had already invented the ‘Multi-Touch’ technology years ago with their TouchStream LP keyboard and iGesture pads that he’s been using for years.

FingerWorks was started by two professors, Elias and Westerman, at the University of Delaware. The basics of FingerWorks technology is based on a large touchpad with a keyboard printed on it. Instead of forcing keys you simply touched them. To move the ‘mouse’ icon you simply place two fingers on the pad and move it around like the two finger scrolling function Apple uses on their laptops. What made the TouchStream special was the fact that it recognizes all 10 fingers of the human hand and where they were on the pad. It eventually evolved into the iGesture where certain finger/hand combinations and movements were programmed as commands. For example, placing 3 or more fingers down and twisting to the left would cause an Open File dialog to appear and twisting right would close the selected object or window. Another pretty cool command was spreading your fingers open and closed to zoom in and out of something.

Are you with me so far? Well back in February of 2005 FingerWorks mysteriously quit replying to support requests or responses were delayed significantly and retailers quit taking orders. Then in June of that year FingerWorks’ main page published “FingerWorks has ceased operations as a business.” FingerWorks was mysteriously bought out and shut down but no one knew by who. The FingerWorks forum was lit up with all sorts of speculation about who had bought them out; IBM, Microsoft and Wacom were thrown out as well as Apple. It was later confirmed that Elias and Westerman had been brought on at Apple but due to strict NDA’s everything was hush-hush until now! Apple didn’t invent this technology and it sucks they don’t give out the credit to those who did come up with it in the first place. But with Apple’s backing, who knows how far Elias and Westerman have taken the technology. So what does this mean for the future of Apple’s ‘Multi-Touch’ technology? The highly rumored Mac tablet is inevitable. The facts and the technology are there, hell it’s been there a lot longer than we thought. The iPhone was released before anything else utilizing the ‘Multi-Touch’ technology because they knew they could kick everyone’s butt in the smartphone industry in one fell swoop. With FingerWorks patents in hand and years of advancement in their back pocket Apple can take as long as they want to release the tablet or anything revolutionary on their own time.

And now you know… the rest of the story.