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lenovolaptopWEB It seems as if few people actually use pens or pencils these days; when they need to express themselves in writing, people are much more likely to type on their computer’s keyboard. And now, with the rise of smart phones, like the iPhone, even typing is quickly giving way to “tapping,” where you use your finger directly on the device’s touchscreen. Everyone loves little devices with touchscreens, it seems – and Israel’s N-trig believes that the touchscreen magic will work on bigger things, like laptops and even desktop computer screens!

Several weeks ago, N-trig, which produces technology for touchscreens that allow users to interact with their screens by touching them, writing on them with a digital pen, or even play the piano – right on-screen, without the need for a keyboard – announced its latest triumph, the inclusion of its touchscreen technology in a new Toshiba laptop. Using screens that include the company’s DuoSense technology, laptop and desktop users can have the same easy-touching screen experience on their computers that they have on “better” cellphones.

N-trig, which has its own proprietary take on multi-touch, announced last month, together with Toshiba, its latest touchscreen offering – the Toshiba Satellite U505 notebook, a new consumer-oriented laptop that ships with Windows 7, enabling users to take advantage of that platform’s touch capabilities. The Toshiba notebook joins several others by Dell, HP, and Lenovo that have been on the market for awhile, and feature N-trig touch technology, and, says Lenny Engelhardt, N-trig’s VP of Development, another device featuring an N-trig smart screen will be hitting the market later this year.

But five laptop models on the market is just the beginning, he says. “We expect interest in touchscreens to really take off next year, when Apple announces its much-anticipated device, which many people believe will be a small notebook, or a tablet. We expect many netbook manufacturers to release touchscreen models next year,” he said, adding that when that happens, N-trig can expect to ship tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of DuoSense units, which manufacturers place on top of their LCD screens, giving users the full benefits of touch.

The secret to N-trig’s success is its DuoSense technology, which is “a dual-mode pen and multi-touch interface designed for today’s advanced computing world,” Engelhardt says. DuoSense is based on projected capacitive touch (PCT) technology, where a sensitive grid of touch points is laid out on the screen, and instantly communicates to the device’s processor what the user is trying to do on-screen. Users can point a finger, or tap or even write with an electrostatic pen or battery-powered pen. DuoSense digitizers are lighter (weighing less than 200 grams for the biggest models) less thick (less than 2 mm), more versatile (it knows when you’re pointing a finger or pen at the screen intentionally, or whether you accidentally stick your palm on the screen -in which case it ignores you) – and more sensitive – than the competitions’, says Engelhardt. Which is why it’s no wonder than some of the biggest laptop makers in the world have beat a path to N-trig’s Kfar Sava offices to work with the company.

While touchscreens have been with us for a long time – on supermarket cash registers, for example – the PCT-based technology used by N-trig, among others, has made touchscreens much more attractive for manufacturers of all electronic devices with screens. Touchscreens are a natural for devices like cellphones, which users have long complained are impossible to interact with (such as for writing SMS messages – remember having to use your keypad to type in a message, instead of touching the screen?). But once a device has touchscreen capabilities, it opens up a whole new world of interactivity possibilities. Such as? Just check out any iPhone ad on TV or the internet to see the plethora of programs and applications developers have come up with (there are tens of thousands of them, and as of the end of September, users have downloaded some 2 billion iPhone apps!).

So having a host of applications that will allow full use of touchscreen features is essential if manufacturers want consumers to trade in their keyboards for their fingers and screen-pens. N-trig has been networking with application companies, helping them come up with versions of popular programs that work with touchscreens. Luckily, the company is not alone in that effort, says Engelhardt; Microsoft, which is seeking to push Windows 7′s touchscreen capabilities, is very active in this space as well. MS also recognizes N-trig’s contribution to the cause, and in fact invested significantly in the startup earlier this year. Already hobnobbing with some of the biggest players in the hardware and software industries, N-trig has made a name for itself as a supplier of top-grade touchscreen technology – and chances are your fingers will be tapping on an N-trig equipped laptop screen in the very near future!

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