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Multi-Touch Support Coming to Ubuntu 10.10

Update on uTouch development efforts

Canonical recently announced the release of uTouch 1.0, Ubuntu’s multi-touch and gesture stack. With Ubuntu 10.10 (the Maverick Meerkat), users and developers will have an end-to-end touch-screen framework — from the kernel all the way through to applications. The multi-touch development team has worked closely with the Linux kernel and X.org communities to improve drivers, add support for missing features, and participate in the touch advances being made in open source world. To complete the stack, an open source gesture recognition engine was created and a gesture API was defined to provide a means for applications to obtain and use gesture events from the uTouch gesture engine.

The multi-touch work began in Ubuntu 10.04 LTS, coincident with work to get additional touch hardware supported in the Linux kernel, particularly the Dell XT2, HP tx2 tablets and the Lenovo T410s laptops. The Maverick development cycle has seen production of several prototypes for gesture recognition software and the Ubuntu archives now include the results of that effort.

The world’s expectations of software experience are being raised by advances in mobile computing. That revolution is coming to the Linux desktop: for window management and applications. Though work at the application level has only just started, it's clear that multi-touch and gestures will be central to the way we use Linux applications in future.

The success of touch in applications depends on several key factors:

  • toolkit integration of gesture APIs
  • touch support for legacy applications
  • designing new applications for finger-based interactions

Work has begun on all three fronts in Ubuntu, and is expected to remain an area of active interest over the next few releases up to 12.04 LTS.

Ubuntu is the fruit of collaboration across the huge Ubuntu community, and also the amazing work of many other communities that form around individual projects and initiatives like Debian. The uTouch framework enables work to begin across many of those communities to make touch a first-class interaction model in open source desktop and mobile software.

Existing contributions in other projects have provided fertile ground for uTouch. To name just a few:

  • Stéphane Chatty at ENAC has lead much multi-touch hardware support in the kernel
  • Peter Hutterer at Red Hat defined multi-pointer X and proposed a multi-touch protocol for a future version of X
  • Carlos Garnacho of the GNOME community has done multi-touch work in X and GTK

Look for continued collaboration, ensuring that Linux remains the preferred platform for people building cutting-edge devices and software.

Canonical is working with manufacturers of touch-enabled products and those of their underlying technology in order to bring innovations in user experience to a broader audience. Its aim is to bring the natural, tactile experience of the world to the desktop, window manager, and applications — all the software that people depend upon to get things done and have fun. Touch will be part of the Ubuntu Netbook, Desktop and Light products from 10.10 and beyond.

More Stories By Glenn Rossman

Glenn Rossman has more than 25 years communications experience working at IBM and Hewlett-Packard, along with startup StorageApps, plus agencies Hill & Knowlton and G&A Communications. His experience includes media relations, industry and financial analyst relations, executive communications, intranet and employee communications, as well as producing sales collateral. In technology, his career includes work in channel partner communications, data storage technologies, server computers, software, PC and UNIX computers, along with specific industry initiatives such as manufacturing, medical, and finance. Before his latest stint in technology, Glenn did business-to-business public relations on behalf of the DuPont Company for its specialty polymers products and with the largest steel companies in North America in an initiative focused on automakers.

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