Touchscreen PC promises to cut desktop clutter, improve productivity

December 26, 2001

Company floats trial balloon at RSNA showAdvan International has developed a new weapon in the fight against desktop clutter: a combination PC/flat-panel monitor that eliminates the need for mouse and keyboard. Icons activated by

Company floats trial balloon at RSNA show

Advan International has developed a new weapon in the fight against desktop clutter: a combination PC/flat-panel monitor that eliminates the need for mouse and keyboard. Icons activated by the touch of a stylus create virtual replacements of the conventional setup.

The Fremont, CA, company gauged the interest of the radiology community in its new device during demonstrations at the Canon Medical booth at the RSNA meeting. This trial balloon was necessary because the product, tentatively dubbed Smart Station, takes some getting used to, said Mark Lutvak, director of sales and marketing.

"We're trying to test the viability of the market for something that might be a little on the radical side," Lutvak said. "We don't consider it radical, but to the people who operate desktops, it will be different."

Virtual controls impose a learning curve on users, who must change the way they work to accommodate the technology. On the plus side, Smart Station could be a godsend for users who shove around stacks of paper on their desktops in search of the mouse or must push aside files to find room for the keyboard.

"This method will work, but we don't know how the user will feel about using a touch-sensitive onscreen keyboard rather than the hand keyboard most people have been using for years and years," said Alan Yu, Advan director of technical support.

Canon is interested in the device primarily for use with its digital radiography products, namely image processing applications. Similar functions might be built into a flat-panel PC for cardiac applications, according to Lutvak. Image processing is less involved than text-oriented operations that typically accompany the entry of patient data. The need to split the screen between a keyboard and text might have further impact on IT operations.

One solution might be a bigger flat panel, which Advan is working on. In the near term, however, users wold have a choice of either a 15- or 18-inch monitor. The computing hardware would be slipped into the existing case of either monitor and functionality would not be compromised.

A device tailored for medical use could be in production early next year, with a list price of around $2000. Whether Advan ultimately markets such a device will depend on a favorable response from the medical community. Having assessed interest at the RSNA meeting, the company plans a second sampling at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society convention Jan. 27 to 31.

Regardless of feedback from the two meetings, however, Advan will produce a flat-panel PC, at least for the dental marketplace. Interest from dentists originally led the company to develop the device, Lutvak said.