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Touch Screen Technology: Beyond Smartphones and Tablets.

The most common uses for touch screen technology are smartphones, automatic teller machines and tablet computers. But there are those who think the interface offers more than a convenient way to dump a keyboard.

Dr. Elizabeth Hahn, an associate professor in the department of medical social sciences at Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University is exploring the use of touch screens on medical kiosks.

The kiosk will allow users to read vital information before or after a visit, find the essential questions to ask and fill out electronic questionnaires. The screen will have audio, so people can hear it if they are visually impaired.

"Touch screens are prevalent in society. You go to the airport and it has a touch screen. The ATM has a touch screen. It's a natural technology to use for people who have never used it. It's a less intimidating technology to use than having a whole computer-and-mouse set up," Hahn said.

Thus far, Hahn has used the kiosks at three Chicago area cancer clinics for poorer populations. After proving its feasibility and accessibility, the team must now demonstrate the technology can offer better outcomes than traditional information portals such as written pamphlets. Ultimately, Hahn says in order to see widespread adoption of these kiosks, hospitals will have to make a financial commitment.

The study included 200 patients from the three cancer clinics. Going forward, Hahn said she hopes the medical kiosks can be developed for other medical centers. "It doesn't just have to be in a cancer clinic. There might be other settings where you have a kiosk. It's just a matter of where you would have the resources to place this kind of system," she said.

Another potential for this technology will be prevention. The current study only includes diagnosed cancer victims. However, Hahn says the team might develop something that could help prevent people from getting the disease in the first place.

"There are a lot of options out there for this touch screen technology," Hahn said.

Another area is replacing the traditional screen with a high-tech whiteboard. Calgary, Alberta-based Smart Technologies has been knee deep in touch screen since the early 1980s, and has made incremental advanced to its whiteboard since the early 1990s.

The interactive, touch screen white board turns the traditional classroom or conference room version into a touch computer with video, digital ink and work saving capabilities.

Smart Technologies also has several models of touch screen computers built into small tables. It can also produce customized touch screen products.

The company is pushing to make its devices in-house, as it acquired New Zealand based NextWindow in April. NextWindow is a manufacturer of components for touch screen technology.

Smart Technologies is set to go public soon, and a spokesperson said the company could not comment on its technology as it is in a quiet period ahead of the initial public offering.

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Publication:International Business Times - US ed.
Date:Jul 12, 2010
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