Everything you need to know about Apple's new gesturing systems

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With the official closure of FingerWorks, the multi-touch interface company Apple purchased five years ago, it is interesting to note just what FingerWorks had to offer and, more important, what Apple may be implementing into the upcoming tablet and, potentially, iPhone 4.0 software.

Aside from the obvious click, drag, and pinch, FingerWorks has a large collection of odd gesture and swipe combinations aimed at making basic data entry easier.

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Their two products, a multi-touch touchpad and the odd MacNTouch Gesture Keyboard designed to fit into 13-inch PowerBooks and iBooks. Here’s the original description:

MacNTouch Keyboards integrate the functions of a large-area super touchpad, a multi-hand, gesture input command station, and a ZeroForce ergonomic keyboard, all on the same smooth surface. The MacNTouch’s non-mechanical, silent, ZeroForce keys require only the lightest touch and are remappable to suit the needs of the individual user. MacNTouch users never have to move their hands between the ZeroForce keys and the pointing device since the “mouse” is always under their fingertips.

The layout of the keys is both novel and beneficial. The arch and inward rotation of each key row acts to reduce unhealthy wrist angles that makes conventional laptop keyboard usage cramped and uncomfortable. In addition, the mirror-symmetric slant of the key columns was designed to perfectly fit the fingers’ natural movement, which tends to maximize typing efficiency. Both Qwerty and Dvorak keyboard layouts are being offered for the MacNTouch.

Here are the basic gestures we can expect to see based on current patents. Some of the them are quite crazy but we tried to show as many as we could in the video above – using the Microsft Surface, incidentally.

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As we see, the gestures may add an entirely new level of user interaction and experience to the tablet and could offer quite a steep learning curve. Developers have already reported that this is probably the case and we eagerly await the first example of “side non-adjacent sliding and clicking repetitive stress syndrome” reported after extensive tablet use.

Will Apple use all of these? None of these? There’s no way to say, but it’s a fascinating movement towards new and improved pointing techniques.

With David Diaz, Sophia Kittler, and Greg Kumparak

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