The mulitouch future of RIAs

Summary:I've been really enjoying Richard Monson-Haefel's blog on multi touch lately. Now that RIA technologies are able to do so much, it's become apparent that the mouse and keyboard are simply too limiting as input devices.

I've been really enjoying Richard Monson-Haefel's blog on multi touch lately. Now that RIA technologies are able to do so much, it's become apparent that the mouse and keyboard are simply too limiting as input devices. The maddening number of iPhone clones that do "gestures" but not true multi touch continues to leave me underwhelmed at the space. But with the iPhone and larger devices like Microsoft Surface or multi touch startups like Intuilab show that there's a lot of innovation around these new interfaces and I think there is a very significant role for RIAs to play here.

We already know that Windows 7 will have multi touch support which means that anyone building WPF applications can incorporate multi touch functionality. Snow Leopard, Apple's newest operating system, supposedly will include it as well but what I want to see are the RIA plugins include it: Flash, Silverlight, JavaFX, etc - because I think that's where the exciting cases are.

Those plugins were built from the ground up to be rich in animation, multimedia, and experience - the perfect use case for multi touch. But I'm also very excited about what's starting to happen with real time communication and collaboration with things like WCF and Cocomo. The web seems to be ready for real-time to take off, so we're getting to the point where we have very rich data layers underneath extremely powerful user interface frameworks and technologies. The only piece that's missing is an input mechanism that can actually make some of these things less cumbersome to use.

As the UIs and the data become more complex, there's going to be a draw to move to better ways of actually interacting with the content. Multi touch technology gives us that, and as we've seen with the iPhone, people pick these applications up very, very quickly. That usability boost is critical if we want to start seeing widespread adoption of the more interesting user interface ideas out there. We've got all the parts of the puzzle, but it's taking more time than I would have liked to bring it all together.

Apologies for the long hiatus. Between Christmas, a vacation to Japan, and everything else, things have been hectic. But hopefully I'm back with a vengeance.

Topics: Hardware

About

Ryan Stewart holds an economics degree from the University of Pennsylvania and is now a Rich Internet Application developer and industry analyst. After graduating from Penn, he spent two years developing applications for the Wharton School and pushing the idea of the web as a platform for learning. Ryan now lives in Seattle with his wife... Full Bio

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