Panbo

Northstar 8000i, the touch screen

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Jan 3, 2006

8000i touch screen BE

Touch screen does seem like “the natural interface” (as I just read at some promotional site), but there are two gripes about using it on the water: one, the technology can reduce precious screen brightness 10–20%, and, two, it’s hard to use when a boat starts bouncing around. Northstar has addressed both issues:

* The 8000i uses an unusual infrared touch screen technology; LEDs and photo cells hidden in the bezel create a invisible light grid which your fingertip interrupts. It seemed to work quite nicely during my demo and it doesn’t reduce screen brightness at all. Supposedly even gloved fingers and sticky fish scales won’t phase it. By the way, in the picture above (bigger here), the 8000i is zooming out by tapping a desired new center spot (red target) and dragging a box from lower right to upper left to define the zoom level. Left to right zooms in, the shaded borders let you pan, and all those touch keys can be hidden with the upper right ‘min’ button.

* But there are also zoom ‘in’ and ‘out’ buttons built right into the 12” 8000i, or you can plug in the dedicated key board seen in the system diagram with the 15” model, or you can use any other USB keyboard or pointing device. Interface flexibility!

This 12” unit, incidently, contains a 1.2 GHz processor and a 35 gig hard drive in addition to what seemed like a very bright screen, and it’s completely sealed. Yet, after a couple of hours of use, its relatively shallow aluminum back casing was barely warm, which I thought impressive, and a sign of durability.

Comments

I tested the unit at the Miami Boat show and both the 12" and 15" models locked up and stopped working. We had the familiar windows error screen pop up and then saw the windows desktop. I wanted the unit for my boat but after seeing the unit lock up three times I would not purchase them.

Posted by: Juan at February 20, 2006 10:29 PM | Reply

That's a little harsh, Juan; they're all still prototypes! The finished units don't ship until around June (I think). The 8000i's do run on Windows XP, and that might be a worry for some, but I've seen prototypes of embedded electronics crash too.

Posted by: Ben at February 20, 2006 10:50 PM | Reply

%100 right. The 8000i won't be out until June and all the 8000i units displaying at the Miami boat show will tend to cash from time to time because they are only protypes and not the "finished" product.

some notes:
The 8000i is based on industrial PC Architecture to provide a stable flexible, and expandable platform. It uses a dedicated software suite running on a locked down XP Embedded platform.

Touch Screen:
Infrared (IR) technology relies on the interruption of an IR light grid in front of the display screen. The touch frame or opto-matrix frame contains a row of IR-light emitting diode (LEDs) and photo transistors, each mounted on two opposite sides to create a grid of invisible infrared light. The frame assembly is comprised of printed wiring boards on which the opto-electronics are mounted and is concealed behind an IR-transparent bezel. The bezel shields the opto-electronics from the operating environment while allowing the IR beams to pass through.

Posted by: Paul at February 21, 2006 1:56 PM | Reply

I can assure you that the software kinks will be worked out by June.

Signed,

Mystery Engineer

Posted by: Mystery Engineer at March 10, 2006 6:08 AM | Reply

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