Microsoft Research On Touch & Stylus

If you are a regular reader of this site, you know that I am a proponent of using styluses with tablet computers. I don’t think styluses should be the only form of input with tablets, and I think that tablets should have touchscreens. In short, my ideal tablet supports both touch and styluses, and according to the Technologizer web site, Microsoft is researching ways to improve on my ideal tablet.

The Technologizer attended Microsoft’s TechFair, which is an event where Microsoft Research shows off their lab projects. He writes that next to one of the demos was a sign that read, “Everything, including TOUCH, is best for something and WORST for something else.” The demos show using touch to move objects on the screen while using a stylus for more precise input. In one of the demos a stylus is used to paint on the screen while moving the “canvas” with a finger. In another demo using Microsoft’s Surface computing table, the user held a picture down with their finger while cropping the picture with a stylus.

One of the challenges with using a stylus on a touchscreen is handling false input from resting the palm of a hand on the screen while writing. Current solutions that involve a passive stylus, which is essentially a plastic stick, require software in the computer to reject the palm input, and this software is not perfect. Other solutions incorporate an active digitizer as a layer of the screen and work with a stylus that has a microchip in it. The combination of the active digitizer and touchscreen adds challenges to battery life and weight, not to mention the need for a special stylus that you don’t want to lose.

I cannot tell from the Technologizer’s report whether Microsoft’s demos used one of these two solutions or something different. Either way, my answer to the Technologizer’s question, which is in the title of his post, is yes, I do think the combination of touch and stylus input is the future of the tablet computing.