Ina Fried

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Multitouch Pioneer Jeff Han Starts to Think Small (Devices)

For years now, Jeff Han has been working on large-screen multitouch displays.

Han and his company, Perceptive Pixel, are best known for creating the giant touch wall that John King and others at CNN use to break down elections.

While Apple, Microsoft and others have targeted consumers, Perceptive Pixel has focused on niche professional markets, especially the defense and government sector.

But, after years of watching the small touchscreen device market from the sidelines, Han said he thinks he is pretty close to creating his first products that will run on those devices.

“Mobile is interesting,” he said in an interview last month at his New York offices (in the Manhattan building that Google is buying, with the amazing roof view seen below). “How can you ignore a billion devices being sold every year?”

Han said there is a reason he has stayed focused on the high end of the market.

“I have a personal bias,” he told Mobilized. “I want computers to be functional, not just playful.”

The modern tablet, he said, is the first consumer device that has enough pixels and the precision sensors to potentially be of interest to Perceptive Pixel. In particular, Han said he is intrigued by the idea of using tablets to allow meeting participants to interact with a nearby larger touchscreen that might be in use by someone leading a meeting.

“We’re looking at mobile and slate devices as a way to tie into this family of collaboration [products],” he said, noting that’s where Perceptive Pixel is spending its energy when it comes to mobile, as opposed to coming up with some killer app that works only on smaller screens. “There are a lot of smart people creating mobile apps.”

Han said his first mobile efforts should come out early next year–in the first quarter or early in the second quarter, though he wouldn’t give more specifics.

Whatever Perceptive Pixel ends up doing in the tablet space, Han said his plan is to eventually have it support multiple operating systems, though Han said the company will probably only qualify certain devices. So far, he said, Apple’s iOS and the iPad seem best suited to the applications he has in mind, while the real-time touch performance on Android has certain issues.

“We’re not going to just let it run on anything out there,” he said. “Some of them just can’t guarantee a good user interface.”

Here is the video interview Mobilized did with Han:

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald