OLPC XO-2 to Have Multi-Touch; Haptics in the Works

Last week, the tech industry was abuzz with questions about OLPC’s next-generation laptop, the XO-2. We heard the news straight from OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte’s mouth: that the system is just a prototype at this point and won’t be available until 2010. But that didn’t stop us and others from picking apart the conceptual system. On a search for some answers, we reached out to Mary Lou Jepsen, the former chief technology officer of OLPC and a founder of PixelQi, who is working to design the XO-2’s dual-touch display. We caught up with Jepsen to find out some details on the screen-centric XO-2. How have you converted the dual-mode display in the current XO to one that is touch capable? What makes this screen different from what you might find on a touch-enabled Tablet PC today or the iPhone? Mary Lou Jepsen: We are integrating multi-touch into the LCD itself, rather than adding an additional touch-sensitive screen over the LCD as is usually done in tablet PCs and iPhone. The cost savings are tremendous, and the image quality is better because nothing is in front of the screen. Will the XO-2 have pen-input/tablet functionality? MLJ: Pen-input/tablet is still to be determined, but it’s certainly not that hard to add. Is the display optimized for any particular OS? The next generation of Sugar? Windows 7? MLJ: The display can use whatever software OLPC chooses. Will the screen use haptic technology (i.e., will users feel feedback when pushing a key)? MLJ: We are working on it. Have there been any usability studies of kids typing on a touchscreens rather than a physical keyboard? MLJ: Not with our devices yet since we are still in development, but there is a wealth of data with children using touchscreens showing that, for them, this is an intuitive and easy-to-use way to interact with computers. Are the days of a physical trackpad and keyboard numbered? Is it all about the screen? And are you concerned at all that children will be computing using a non-traditional design? MLJ: We will see. I have no concern with breaking with tradition. Portable computing is all about the screen—it is, by far, the most expensive component in a portable; it’s also the most power-hungry. We need to drastically reduce the cost and power consumption (to vastly prolong battery life), intertwine the screen with the hardware, make the screen more readable, and make it readable outside even in bright sunlight. We also must integrate touch into the screen itself as a minute incremental cost to the cost of the screen. How can you maintain the durability of the current XO in this new system? MLJ: By protecting the screen with good mechanical design. The XO-2 will reduce power consumption even further to 1 watt. How will this power-saving be achieved? MLJ: The screens will be far more efficient. I have a new architecture which will drastically cut the power consumption further while improving readability. Pixel Qi’s goal to distribute its screen technology to other partners. Any plans you can share to employ the dual-screen touch technology for other notebook brands? MLJ: I can’t share our partners names at this time. We are working with large, tier-one laptop, cell phones, and e-book makers.

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  1. Ulan McKnight Says:

    Good luck!

    Haptic feedback is going to be very important for the future of screen typing. Even if the lack of physical feedback is not solved for the XO-2, it is a desirable feature and should be pursued.

    Using screens only is definitely where we need to be going as there is no reason to lug the static bulk of a keyboard for most purposes. One can always attach an external keyboard if desired. I certainly do not miss one on the iPhone (although I would get a lot more work done if I could attach an external tactile keyboard ;)

  2. Nisa Galtman Says:

    I think that they need to focuse more on the screens then the looks of the computer/ laptop….. I also would have to say that there needs to be more work done on getting ride of the keyboard and maybe making a voice chip in the computer that all you have to do is say the work or sentence and it would take you to what your sorce.

    right now I’m writing a major paper describing just how I want to change ta modern computer to something for the future lines of computer technology.

    Can we live or can we work without Computers? We can. We did. For thousands of years. A computer is a convenience, not a matter of life or death. If your PC died, you wouldn’t have to call an ambulance for a trip to the ER. We forget that computers are a fairly new part of our everyday lives. If every PC in the world died tomorrow, we’d be upset. We’d wail and moan and cry, it would be a mess. But…life would continue. Even with computers, people seem to always be behind on work, the news and everything. I think we depend on them too much and we have basicly based our life around technology these days. Like in the show Dark Angel, It was set sometime in the future, when all the computers had been fried by a pulsar and the entire world was turned into a third world country. Do I think that would happen? No, but as much as we depend on them, and as much of our lives as are stored on them, if every computer ceased to work tomorrow the world would not know what to do.
    When was the first computer invented? In 1974, Ed Roberts created the Altair 8800. This was the first personal computer. Although the first personal computer is considered to be the Kenback1, which was first introduced for $750 in 1971. The computer relied on a series of switches for inputting data and output data by turning on and off a series of lights. The Micral is considered to be the first commercial non-assembly computer. The computer used the Intel 8008 processor and sold for $1,750 in 1973.
    In this job background I want to be able to improve things like laptops and other computer technology based things. My main thing that I want to Improve is the way a laptop could be more accessible to a wider range of people. I would further improve the size, speed, and memory for more specialized use by teacher, law enforcement, and medical personnel. The first part of my paper will focus on improving modern technology to something better. If we keep making computers with out changing them as people change, then computers would not be useful to us in the future then they would become more of a problem to us then a solution. The second part of my paper will be explaining how I would improve the size of the computer, and make it smaller and more portable for use in vehicles. Next I will explain how I would make a memory chip that would have close to unlimited space. Last of all I will tell you how to make a computer that could run off any type of power available to its operator, and how I would change the interface so the keyboard is no longer needed and the machine would run off of a voice activated chip. The end of my paper will focus on current trends in computer networking hardware industries, I will discus who is building computers similar to what I want to build and to what their education and experiences are.

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