Serious gamers generally avoid touchscreens because these devices lack physical buttons due to which the key press timing in touchscreen input is unpredictable, a team of Finnish researchers has found.
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When timing is made more predictable, performance improves, said the group from Aalto University.
"The common view was that the lack of physical buttons is critical but you also have tactile feedback from the surface of a touchscreen. Another false belief was that touchscreens are slower but that is not the case anymore," said Byungjoo Lee, one of the researchers.
The team conducted experiments where participants were asked to tap a display when a target would appear.
The data showed large differences between physical keys and touchscreens in how reliably users could time their presses.
The researchers proposed a new theory explaining that there are three sources of error that make timing very hard with touchscreens.
First, people are not able to keep the finger at a constant distance above the surface. The finger is always moving, and even the slightest movement hampers our ability to time precisely.
By contrast, when using physical keys, the finger rests on the key, eliminating this source of error.
"Second, when the finger touches the surface, it is hard for the neural system to predict when the input event has been registered. Typically software detects the touch when the finger first touches the display. But users cannot sense this event so it is not predictable for them," the authors explained.
Third, when the event has been registered on the touchscreen, it still needs to be processed in the application and in some cases the time that it takes is longer than in other ones, creating another source of latency.
The new theory implies that users' performance can be improved by making touch events more predictable.
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The paper is scheduled to be presented at the "Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 2016" (CHI16 conference) in San Jose, California, in May.