Microsoft takes a closer look at touchscreen latency

There's something very natural about the touchscreen interfaces on modern tablets. Seeing a user interface react fluidly under one's fingertip is remarkably satisfying, and after some eight months with my Eee Pad Transformer, the novelty has yet to wear off. Indeed, the Asus tablet's latest Android update has made the UI noticeably snappier, highlighting the importance of a responsive interface.

Microsoft seems to understand the importance of low-latency touch interfaces, too. Its Applied Sciences Group has posted a video illustrating the lag associated with current touchscreen technology, which is purportedly around 100 ms, and compares it to examples with 50, 10, and only 1 ms of latency.

The demo uses a projection-based display to simulate the lower latencies, and the difference is palpable at each step along the way. I'm even surprised at how much lag I can see in the 10-ms setup, although it doesn't look like the delay would bother me while dragging around elements of a tablet UI. As the doodling example in the video shows, lower-latency interfaces are particularly important when one is drawing on the screen, be it with a stylus or a fingertip. Touchscreen latency seems particularly obvious because the gap between one's input and the UI's reaction can be plainly seen; keyboards, mice, and touchpads keep the input side of things well out of view.

Microsoft has set a touchscreen latency target of 1 ms for the next decade, and I hope it doesn't take that long to achieve it. Thanks to The Verge for the tip.

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