How Touchscreens May Have Delayed Humanity's Progress: A Multi-Trillion Dollar Mistake?
The kids of developing world could not use phones to engineer for decades, and the "remote control" capabilities are not the focus of smart phone industry even today.
Looking back to our history, we may discover, that the premature introduction of touchscreens have been among the worst innovations ever, that had delayed humanity's progress in numerous fields from software and hardware engineering to remote control domains.
With the focus on "what can be done with a flat touchscreen", we may have wasted countless hours of front-end developers to soft-innovate ways of touching, instead of pushing hardware engineers to hard-innovate better input hardware form factor, that prevented the creation of "precision remote control" input capabilities for the masses, degrading the masses to the behaviors of scrolling with a thumb.
1. Touchscreens delayed software and hardware engineering
Back in the days of Nokia 9000 Communicator, and IRC chat, we had a trend of developing mini hand-held PCs (see: modern variant). Imagine that a touchscreen and PDA were not invented, and instead, people would have evolved those hand-held PCs, to the point where keyboard went behind (like explained in: Hankeyboard idea), allowing for blind touch-typing with 10 fingers, while viewing the screen (a bit like with modern "PlayStation Portable" (PSP), but with full keyboard at the back of it). This kind of device would have revolutionized the input, making it possible to compose and write code, even develop software with such mobile devices. However, even with powerful CPUs, smart phone form factor was not suitable for any desktop work, so kids in developing world, who had grown up with a smart phone rather than a computer in hand, had been prevented from this potential creativity.
If we had no touchscreens, it is imaginable that mobile keyboard and mouse would have evolved, and made it possible to use such "Communicators" to both write software and even use CAD software to engineer. With billions of smart phones produced, just imagine what billions of hand-held PCs could have done in the hands of the developing world, enabling every kid to program and do CAD engineering… yet it didn't happen. What a loss.
2. Touchscreens are delaying remote control technology
Touchscreens may look futuristic, yet virtually no gamers are using them: they prefer joysticks and real buttons instead, even today, in the time of touchscreen abundance. I'm sure there are reasons for it.
Moreover, the abundance of touchscreens today mean that app developers continue to waste time on innovating on what can be done with a thumb, instead of what could be done with 10 fingers on a joystick system, and there can be done a lot with a joystick system: remote control-focused hand-helds are used today to control robotic dogs and drones.
If not for the introduction of touchscreens, it is reasonable to assume that these fully-featured hand-held remote-control devices would be abundant today, allowing for an immense on-line workforce to do diverse equipment control: allowing from kids to professionals - play and learn building and fixing things via remote control.
What can be done to fix this?
While the damage that has been done cannot be un-done, we could:
- (A) Create adapters for phones to make them into remote-control devices by creating joystick-like plastic housings with keyboards at the back, like described in "Hankeyboard".
- (B) Mass-produce cheap-yet-convenient heads-up display adapters, like Ximmerse has been doing, to allow smart-phones be reused as control devices, reading our hand movements as a form of input.
However, both (A) and (B) are interfering with normal use of smart-phones that most people are used to, creating inconveniences of switching (taking out, plugging in) the phone into handler, which wouldn't have been a problem, if people were to be used to handheld PC form factor, and already had specialized pockets and habits for them.