Discover more stories about Mitacs — and the game-changing innovations driven by students and postdocs.
As society moves further into the technological era, people expect information at their fingertips as quickly as possible.
New research by downtown Toronto resident and University of Toronto postdoctoral fellow Ricardo Jota promises to make the digital world even faster.
Jota and his team have come up with a way to cut down on the standard 75 to 100 millisecond lag on touch screens, essentially reducing latency to zero.
“When you use a touch screen, the object you’re swiping trails your finger,” Jota said. “The lag there is today doesn’t seem like much, but it was an interesting question to ask: what if we made (swiped objects) move as if they were in real life? Would that make a difference?”
In studies so far, the difference has been stark. Not only have the testers preferred latency-free swiping, it actually improved their performance on simple tasks.
While some may find the latency on phones, tablets and touch screen computers to be negligible, Jota said it is largely accepted because, simply, people aren’t used to faster interfaces and have come to expect the current ones as status quo. He likens the difference to using new, high-powered home computers compared to the models that were popular 20 years ago, or to recent advances in television resolution.
“It’s a lot like a really, really high resolution TV – it’s really, really crisp, and when you go back to an old one after seeing that, it looks really horrible,” he said.
The new technology can be used in a variety of ways, from improving gaming performance for video gamers to potentially saving lives.
“So many features in cars nowadays are on the dashboard, on touch screens,” Jota said. “People have to look where they’re touching, which means they’re not looking at the road.”
“By making that surface more responsive, it can really improve safety in a situation where every millisecond counts.”
He also pointed to emergency response teams, where even the slightest delay can result in a loss of life.
The research team has managed to cut latency down to a single millisecond – far below the threshold at which it can be perceived by human eyes.
“Most people can’t perceive lag at 20 to 24 milliseconds, but some people can still perceive it,” he said. “To get it to where no human can see it, you have to go down to 10.”
The team has 10 patents pending for its work, and hopes to launch products based on the research next year. Jota said there is the potential for both apps and improved hardware that speeds up latency.
Jota was recently awarded a Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation – Post-Doctoral for his work in the field. Mitacs, a national not-for-profit organization, is dedicated to the promotion of Canadian research and training.
By: Justin Skinner