Get excited over TabletKiosk’s Multi-Touch NetSlate tablet

NetSlateWith everyone drooling over as-yet non-existent slate tablets and buzzing about multi-touch input, you’d think an ACTUAL slate tablet with multi-touch input would be the talk of the town. Yet somehow, the Sahara NetSlate a230T from TabletKiosk managed to fly in under the radar without a peep over its multi-touch input capability.

At first glance, the NetSlate looks like it’s just an Intel Atom-powered version of the Sahara i400 series Tablet PC. But being the curious cat that I am, I sought to learn more, and what I found, buried in the product details, was this surprising line: “Supports multi-touch in Windows XP.” Score one for curiosity.

But a single line does not tell a story, so I reached out to the good folks at TabletKiosk and got the scoop from Daniel Levy, VP of Marketing and Creative Services. Read all about it after the jump.

First, thanks to Dan for filling in the blanks on this. I did a bit of digging into the PenMount system that makes multi-touch on this resistive touchscreen possible, but Dan handed me a great summation.

The feature is a patent pending technology developed by AMT Corp. for its PenMount line of resistive touch screen controllers. It allows for up to 12 unique concurrent positions of input by either your finger or stylus.

It works by creating configurable zones via the PenMount driver that sections the screen into as many as 12 different input areas. Each zone size and location are definable and each zone acts like an individual analog touch screen.

So basically, the software divides the screen into separate zones. Each zone acts as a separate touchscreen capable of recognizing a single point of contact. Two fingers in one zone won’t do anything special, but touch two different zones, and you’ve got multi-touch input. The zones can recognize when others are being pressed and respond accordingly. This enables such gestures as rotate and pinch to zoom. Both the zone system and multi-touch capability of the PenMount system can be seen in YouTube videos located on the PenMount website.

It should be noted the zones are highly configurable, so you could, for example, set up an area in the lower right corner to comfortably enact gestures (or left if you’re a lefty). Since it’s a resistive touchscreen, it can be controlled with a regular stylus or while wearing gloves, and it’s a bit more rugged than the current crop of capacitive screens. Also among the videos is a demonstration in Windows 7, and Dan mentioned to me the current drivers should work in Windows 7 (not that Win 7 is available as an OS option yet).

Between their multi-touch slate and their dual-mode UMPC, TabletKiosk seems to be delivering today what we’ve been expecting from mythic tablets yet-to-be. Think that deserves a little bit of excitement.