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Touching the Interface: Microsoft and others Back N-Trig

touch interfaceA year ago, Bill Gates took the stage at the Consumer Electronics Show to deliver his final keynote address.  As always, he talked about Microsoft’s achievements and he spoke of his vision for the future. One of the touch-points emphasized was changes to user interfaces on the horizon.  Building on the “Surface” initiative Microsoft launched months earlier, Gates said we were overdue for evolution in computer controls.  In the future, he said, we’ll migrate away from solitary dependence on keyboards and mice.  Whether in kitchen electronics (talked about a year ago and now becoming available), or traditional computing environments, touch, voice and more “natural” interfaces, he predicted, would become more common; not replacements, per say, but alternate choices suited for some applications.  The increasing ubiquity of computing – whether through the “cloud” or converging devices – would pave the way.

2008 rolled forward with steps taken in that direction.  Touch enabled cell phones crossed unquestionably to the mainstream. The Wii, in gaming, continued to dominate competition thanks to its inventive motion controls.  Multiple touch and gesture controls appeared around the computing industries.   The table, it seemed, was being set.

Starting off 2009, Microsoft is making another push in the direction of Gates’ vision.  At the Consumer Electronics Show this past week, the company demonstrated an early version of the next Windows O.S. (Windows 7). In the trade show booth, as seen in the video footage at the end of this article (also available here), the touch controls were featured prominently.  Today, adding to that, the company confirmed more investment into the space.

Alongside Aurum Ventures, Challenger Ltd., Canaan Partners and Evergreen Venture Partners, Microsoft contributed into a combined $24m venture round for the Israel-based interface developer, N-Trig.

N-Trig is the developer of touch-screen hardware and software that is capable of interpreting both pen-based and capacitive touch-based input (e.g. finger swipes).  Called “DuoSense,” the technology is built around a transparent unit that integrates on top of any LCD panel. 

N-Trig says its “DuoSense digitizers are faster, more sensitive and accurate, use less power, and easier to integrate than traditional solutions.”  Virtually zero pressure is required to engage the device and accuracy is in the range of 2.5mm.  DuoSense also supports multi-touch or gesture based control from more than one point of contact.  A movement pinching a thumb and forefinger together, for example, will enlarge objects onscreen or makes them smaller.

Ian LeGrow, group program manager for Windows Client at Microsoft, spoke about the project in an official press statement. "With the introduction of multi-touch in Windows 7, integrated with N-trig’s DuoSense technology, our customers will have a new and natural way to interact with their PCs," he said. "By simulating the way people write and touch naturally, N-trig is helping to make it easier to navigate your PC."

N-Trig’s CEO, Amichai Ben-David says the funding will be applied to OEM partner development, further technology development and to fund expansion into mobile platforms.

N-Trig previously raised $28m in February, 2008 (believed to be a Series C round).  At the time, N-trig also set up a  $5 million credit facility from Plenus, a Venture Lending Fund in Israel.

The company’s global headquarters is in Kfar Saba, Israel. The company also maintains a regional presence in Austin, Texas and Taipei, Taiwan.

Besides Windows 7 (where a partnership was announced in November), N-Trig’s technology is available in the HP TouchSmart TX2 and the Dell Latitude XT.  More announcements for OEM partnerships are expected.

N-Trig is marketing their technology as “Hands-on Computing.”

Related Articles from Metue
Gaming Peripherals: The Next Wave of Changes?
Futurism: Gesture Controls The  Next Generation?
Beyond Gaming: Wii Warfare, Cancer Research and More
Bill Gates CES 2008
Microsoft in My Kitchen?
Changing Interactions: Surface Computing and the Future
Mobilizing Content: Two Opportunities


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