Microsoft user interface research lead Bill Buxton and colleagues have shown off a concept of how combining pen and fingers can improve the usability of Windows tablets and enhance productivity.
The video shows the benefit of how simply using the thumb of the hand holding your tablet can still allow powerful improvements in accessing functions in apps ranging from web browsers, drawing apps or even Excel spreadsheets.
They note the thumb is available and sufficiently mobile to manipulate many controls, enabling a whole new space of “thumb + pen” interactions. This can allow one to readily interleave use of a pen between annotation and cell-selection on a spreadsheet, for example, or to select cells and copy them to another (possibly distant) location on the sheet—thus illustrating how pen and touch (via the thumb) can afford a far more casual form of productivity, even when one is just kicking back on the couch with such devices.
The Excel demo in the early part of the video is particularly interesting, as it seems to use adaptations of Microsoft’s Surface Dial radial control, which is of course already built into Windows and which is gaining increasing support from developers.
Microsoft published their research in the Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’17) and the paper can be read here.