When you think about all that’s actually going on behind the scenes when you use the touchscreen on your smartphone, it’s almost surprising things work as well as they do. In near-realtime, your phone’s hardware senses capacitive anomalies, recognizes them as fingertips, tracks them individually, and reports those positions to phone software, which then has its own task of figuring out how to interpret your input and display the proper on-screen reaction. With all this happening, it’s little wonder that we perceive a slight delay between touch inputs and our phones reacting to them. While this gap is still small, often clocking-in around one-tenth of a second, Microsoft thinks we can do a lot better, and recently showed-off a touchscreen system with response times that are a hundred times faster.
This research is largely theoretical, with Microsoft focusing on how the user experience with touchscreens noticeably improves as we decrease the input latency. We haven’t heard of Microsoft actually coming up with a system intended for use in future smartphones and tablets; it seems more like it’s encouraging display manufacturers to live up to the expectations it’s setting.
The demonstrations, especially when slowed-down, really highlight just how much latency we actually put up with, often without paying attention to it. Now that Microsoft’s whet our appetite with its one-millisecond tracking demo, though, we’re more anxious than ever for these kind of super-fast-trackers to become a reality.