What still needs to happen, either conceptually or technologically, for touch interactivity to reach its full potential?”
Touch interactivity has come a long way, but to reach its full potential, there may need to be a less linear way of thinking. The standard for touch interactivity is in all of our pockets right now, and for making phone calls, navigating menus or other basic tasks, the capacitive touchscreen is near perfect. However, even these wildly successful devices have failed when it comes to playing games, and typing is less than ideal, even at this point. Games have gone backwards in a sense; they are designed to work with what the touchscreen is good for, and no longer do you see games with virtual controllers on the screen. At one point, phone makers tried to make a touchscreen that had tactile feedback to more closely resemble a real keyboard. It didn’t work out. The point here is that touch interactivity naturally lends itself to some things, and not as much with other things unless a unique experience is designed from the ground up.
If you’ve ever used Google Earth, you know that it can be a fun and informative tool, but a bit clunky to navigate with a mouse. Step into Google Earth VR with a headset and touch controllers, however, and navigating Google Earth becomes a natural extension of your hands, with almost no learning curve. There’s no need for a tutorial. It works as you’d simply expect it to. This is the key with interactive touch displays. They should work as you’d naturally expect them to. If it’s navigating menus or playing content, a good touchscreen and some proper UI design will work great. If the user is meant to put in information, some innovative user input might be in order to make it natural. Additionally, the hardest question might be the most important – if touch interactivity isn’t as natural as something physical for what we need put in from the user, should touch interactivity be used? The answer may not always be yes … and it’s not against the rules to combine them either.