back to article The touchscreens that push back, thanks to Brit hi-fi boffinry

You'd be forgiven for never having heard of flat loudspeaker designer NXT. Mission, Quad, Wharfedale and Cyrus are the brands it all but destroyed before ending up as one of the UK's smallest listed companies, though one with aspirations to rise again. The technology behind NXT was developed by DERA, the UK's military research …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does it handle multitouch?

    How does it compare to stuff from Senseg?

    1. Bill Ray (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Does it handle multitouch?

      I've touched both, and the HiWave stuff is better.

      But HiWave were using a pressure-sensitive pad, introducing the click only when the pressure exceeded a threshold to replicate the experience of a physical button, so one has to imagine what Senseg could do with pressure sensitivity.

      Overall I'd still say the HiWave kit is more subtle, and granular, and combined with sound makes for a very compelling experience - assuming one wants to recreate physical buttons.

  2. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

    I suddenly have this image of the touchscreen punching

    when annoyed by the user

  3. Arrrggghh-otron

    Solved the bass problem?

    I'll believe that when I hear it.

    I have a pair of NXT speakers that sit in the loft unused, as they are painful to listen to after a while.

    1. Robert Forsyth

      Re: Solved the bass problem?

      I have mine in a comfortable living room.

      I agree they sound more realistic playing acoustic guitar, violin, etc. music and the stereo image is not great.

    2. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      Re: Solved the bass problem?

      I used to have a pair of the Wharfedales that I got for rear speakers. The lack of image isn't a problem for rears, so I didn't mind that, but the sound was just so muddled that I couldn't stomach it.

      As for putting them on the front of my phablet; I'm not convinced that there's enough glass that isn't already occupied by actual screen, and tbe borders are getting smaller if anything. However, on a surface computer I could imagine it working.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Solved the bass problem?

        However, on a surface computer I could imagine it working.

        I think you mean a tablet.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I see what you did there...

        Correct me if I'm wrong but the way I read it the speaker IS the screen.

  4. TRT Silver badge


    you could also use trans-cutaneous magnetic stimulation, but the coils are massive. This does sound like a promising bit of technology.

  5. Simon Harris

    Not exactly new...

    The actuator may be different, but otherwise it doesn't seem a lot different to what Immersion Corp are doing.

    We had them give us a demonstration of their touch-screen with haptic buttons, must be something like 5 years ago! These days they encourage you to download their haptics SDK from their website.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh my Quad

    Quad, Quad, Quad. Sigh....

    "A piece of wire with gain." What a beautiful expression of engineering truth, and antithesis of audiophile wizardry.

    Can we have our real Quad back please?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Excuse the pedantry but QUAD's marketing strapline was "The closest approach to the original sound".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Pedantry excused

        That was indeed the marketing. However, Peter Walker's definition of the ideal amplifer was variously, "a straight wire with gain", "a piece of wire with gain", and so on.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Pedantry excused

          And for a longer piece of wire... the infamous ad showing 50 Quad 303s connected in series:

          To get a little pretentious for a second, the sight of a Quad 303 is as evocative to British blokes of a certain age, as a madeleine to Marcel Proust.

          1. Dave 126

            Re: Pedantry excused

            I heard a Quad at a friend's recently... sounded good but was bested by the kit it was sat on top of: A pianola with a Fats Waller roll loaded in it.

            : D

          2. John H Woods Silver badge

            Re: Pedantry excused

            A la recherche du timbres perdu?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Further pedantry

          It's a lovely line, but would it need to be two wires, to complete the circuit?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Further pedantry

            Touché! Upvoted

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Re: Oh my Quad

      "Can we have our real Quad back please?"

      Well you're not having mine. Recently back from One Thing Audio, and sounding grand (which the refurb cost, so the universe is in balance).

      Should you want your own pair of 57's, they are still sold new for €5k a pair by the German company that bought the tooling, likewise the 63's. Or for £7k you could have the more recent Quads from IAG.

      1. Tony Rogers

        Re: Oh my Quad

        I solved the problem of the lack of bass response with the Quad Electrostatic panel speakers by pairing them up with a pair of B&W (Bower & Wilkins) DM70's. These also had a small electrostatic unit perched above the huge

        bass units. Driven through a Marantz Quad system ( the one with the oscilloscope built in..remember)

        Not for the purist but dammed room filling noise.

        Were the biggest speakers the Electrovoice Patricians ? 30" bass drivers ?

        Now those on a tablet would be something for the lads to try out !

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I was under the impression that the principle behind these loudspeakers was invented at EMI's Central Research Labs at Hayes or was that an earlier incarnation?

  8. johnnytruant

    I remember those Wharfdale panels

    They came out while I was working at Richer Sounds, there was much excitement when they arrived in the store and we set up a pair in the demo room, before being faintly disappointed but concluding there were definitely situations when fidelity, imaging and bass were less important than appearance or compactness.

    Never saw a single set sold.

    1. DaveDaveDave

      Re: I remember those Wharfdale panels

      "there were definitely situations when fidelity, imaging and bass were less important than appearance or compactness"

      BOSE could have told you that :)

  9. some vaguely opinionated bloke

    Excuse the puerility, but...

    "recently signed a deal to embed one of their speakers into an iPad case created by a KickStarter project (the "onanoff")"

    "the vibrational effect of the transducers could, potentially, make the concept of haptic feedback into a useful reality [for the onanist?]"

  10. Clive Galway
    Thumb Up

    I hope Google write support in for Android

    I hate capacitive touch screens.

    They detect clicks when you don't even touch the glass, are unusable if the screen gets rained on and are not as accurate as resistive (Without a special pen, but with resistive you could use your nail / a random bit of plastic / a retracted ball-point).

    A pressure sensitive screen with haptic feedback? YES PLEASE !!!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I hope Google write support in for Android

      I'll sell you the kids' Nokia 5800's then. And you can re-learn what a step forward glass capacitive screen really were. Ghastly, ghastly things that resistive screens are, I suppose they're a minority fetish interest.

  11. bharq

    long live the LCD!

    so the LCD is fused to the gorilla glass, which is vibrating like hell. Any informed opinions (or, as this is the Reg, wild guesses) on how this translates into life expectancy for the display?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: long live the LCD!

      I was thinking the same myself. Can I be the first to coin the phrase "Glass Fatigue" to describe the spontaneous disintegration of old phone and slab screens, weakened by years of constant low-level vibration.

  12. Eddie Edwards
    Thumb Up

    Sony had this in 2003

    I was in Sony's Japanese HQ back in 2003 and a universal remote was handed to me which had a flat glass surface illuminated with virtual buttons. I thought that was pretty cool on its own. Then I pressed a button and OH MY GOD the experience was *exactly* like pressing a real button. (I seem to remember being able to feel the edges of the button, too, but that might be a confabulation since it was a decade ago.) I can definitely relate to the author's response to the tech - it's literally like magic in your hands.

    They told me it was done with ultrasonic vibrations - presumably (?) the whole screen vibrates to give the tactile feedback, so it's not localized, and may not work for multitouch so well. I wonder if transducers at each corner can localize the vibrations and make it work for two or three fingers too?

    But, unless they launched only in Japan or something, the product never seems to have made the light of day. Perhaps they priced themselves out of any nascent market by charging £2,000 for a universal remote (that's my Sony!)

    Does anyone else know what became of the Sony tech? Because I can imagine some submarine patents surfacing if these products become popular. Which I do hope they will, because I so want this on my phone.

    I don't understand why it takes some super-duper military speaker tech though. Can't a piezo device stuck to the glass do the same basic thing? I don't care so much about having the screen be a speaker, if I'm honest; not unless there's a marked increase in volume anyway. But magic buttons on a flat screen? Yes, please!

    1. Dave 126

      Re: Sony had this in 2003

      Ahh, Sony, bless.

      I'm trying to wrack by brains by remembering a pair of Sony headphones featured in a National Geographic article in the eighties, as an example of something made from shell fish. Can anyone supply a link, or am I to be left wondering if I ate too much cheese last night?

      >some super-duper military speaker tech though

      It wasn't so much military tech as in "we have unlimited budgets and first access to new kit". but rather "we sometimes work in bloomin' loud places". Bose seems to have done better from efforts to make aircraft more bearable, using anti-phase sound generated by the years, rather than on the windows.

      1. Dave 126

        Re: Sony had this in 2003

        Correction to my last comment:

        It wasn't shell fish, it turns out it was dehydrated bacterial slime that Sony used for diaphragms:

        1. Dan 10


          "dehydrated bacterial slime that Sony used for diaphragms"

          I've got this half-formed mental image of a slimy blob creature breathing (diaphragm) via headphones. Bravia-branded, perhaps...

      2. Eddie Edwards

        Re: Sony had this in 2003

        Ah, this anti-phase sound generated by the years explains my lack of high-frequency hearing in middle-age.

  13. riparian zone

    finally, fondleslabs for the visually impaired...?

    It would be fantastic, especially as most people lose their sight when they get old, and the ease of use could be a real game changer...will be looking out for this a little bit. viva la haptic feedback!

  14. Ammaross Danan


    "Corning's Gorilla Glass, which graces the front of every device worth its salt these days."

    I believe Apple still refuses to use Gorilla Glass in their iDevices last I checked....oh, worth its [weight in] salt....I see what you did there....

  15. gabor1


    the killer app is an on-screen keyboard with haptic feedback.

  16. ScissorHands

    The N9 got there first - as usual

    The keyboard haptics on the Nokia N9 have to be felt to be believed. Not pressure sensitive, though.

  17. hahnchen

    Haptics, it's always the next big thing

    Put some money on Immersion a few years back, was convinced (still am) that haptics are going to be massive, and that every single phone, tablet, thing is going to have them in.

    But boy has the uptake been laggardly. The share price has gone nowhere. I've got a Nexus S, and the haptics are rudimentary at best - companies only seem to license the lowest of the low in terms of haptics, Immersion have much better tech in their labs, but it never makes it into a product.

    Hiwave are so cheap though, the company is only worth £6.5M. That is absolutely nothing to any mobile phone manufacturer, so if the tech really is good, then it's probably worth a punt as a takeover target. I'm not putting any more into haptics though.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Haptics, it's always the next big thing

      "companies only seem to license the lowest of the low in terms of ...."

      ..everything. Because if you went for a Wolfson codec instead of a cheapo whoever, then you'd be adding a dollar to your BOM. No shakes, a dollar on a two hundred dollar device. But where do you stop? You then want a state of the art power manager, another two dollars. Start factoring in a better baseband processor, or a decent GPS processor, do the same elsewhere, and suddenly you find you've built God's own mobile phone - at a price that only He can afford.

      Then take a look at the ghastly Vertu handsets, and you'll see they don't spend an extra brass farthing on the innards, merely some bling on the outside. Even those who could afford a high quality piece of kit prefer instead to buy the mobile equivalent of a Ford Focus with a Ghia badge.

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