Whenever I look at a map on my phone, my first instinct is to zoom in on the screen by touching it and ‘pinching outwards’.
When I look at a map on a Windows laptop screen, I still feel the urge to zoom in with my fingers, even though my screen lacks touchscreen functionality, so I use a mouse.
And Mac users? Well, they don’t even get a choice. No Mac laptop comes with a touchscreen and its uncertain if they ever will, given Apple’s late founder and CEO Steve Jobs shot down the idea back in 2010.
But that’s about to change.
This week at the annual gadget-lovers' Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Swedish company Neonode unveiled AirBar, a thin flat silver strip that sticks magnetically beneath the screen of a 13-inch MacBook Air, plugs into the USB drive, and instantly turns your standard screen into a touchscreen.
There are no drivers or other bits to install.
AirBar installed on a MacBook Air
You don’t even need to use your fingers to touch the screen. You can use a paintbrush, a spatula or gloved hand. It doesn’t matter. What’s actually happening is the AirBar is projecting an indiscernible light field over your screen which reacts to any disturbance.
On the downside, it’s not yet available for other Mac screen sizes (only 13.1”) and almost unbelievably, you can’t yet use it to scroll down web pages or pinch to zoom. Neonode promises this will be possible when the AirBar for MacBook Air goes on sale.
The company has not yet announced an availability date (it’s rumoured to be March), saying only that it will be “soon” and that the item can be pre-ordered on its site.
AirBar on a Windows laptop
If this functionality sounds interesting to Windows users, you’re in luck. Neonode has offered a Windows version since December 2015 (‘AirBar for PC’), and it’s available for three screen sizes: 13.3”, 14”, and 15.6”. And the bonus? It’s only US$69 -- $30 less than the MacBook Air version, but comes only in black.
AirBar for PC comes in three sizes
PS. You’ll need to remember to remove the AirBar before closing the lid of your laptop. At 5mm, it’s thin, but not that thin. Don’t worry if you forget, though, as an alarm will sound to warn you!