"What our researchers are working on, is literally creating a dictionary of touch and gestures from around the world," McKinney said. "When someone happens to be in-country, I'm throwing a video camera at them, saying run the test, videotape her, bring the videotape back. Do things like, say, put a monitor up, put a picture up [on it], say to them, if you wanted to make that picture bigger, how would you do that?" Apple's iPhone and iPod touch have popularized the two-finger "pinch" command, McKinney noted. "But in some parts of the world they don't know what the pinch command is, and the user will try to grab the image from the side...They'll do fingers."
Unfortunately, the touch dictionary will remain part of HP's research and development rather than a nice anthropologically-based tool for the larger population. This research strikes me as a bit disingenuous -- and, frankly, ignorant of the reams of knowledge already gathered by those in the retail kiosk touch screen world. But even in the in-home market, consider how the Wii has had magnificent worldwide success and there's no universality to the gestures required. And back to our crossover example: Kiosk touch screen technology gets developed and deployed successfully in myriad settings without too much complaining about gestures and cultural illiteracy. In fact, because kiosk touch screens are used more broadly by a wider population -- and in a variety of contexts (from SeaWorld to CVS, from India to Kansas) -- they have to be more finely tuned to user needs. And innovative: think of the recent thin foil screens that can be attached to any glassy surface (Barking Snail's version shown here).
The lesson that home-use touch screen technology can learn from touch screen development in the kiosk industry: making it innovative means creating software that "makes touch useful rather than a mere curiosity." As the New York Times points out, no one benefits if the applications are not interesting.