iDéjà iVu

1:25 PM -- Given that Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) has historically been "inspired" by outside sources, it's not too surprising to find precursors to that nifty iPhone interface.

An all-touch-screen interface, with two-finger zoom in/out capability, turns out to have been shown a year ago by Jeff Han of NYU, at the Technology Entertainment Design conference in Monterey, Calif.

Check out the video; Google has a zoomed version.

Among the cool applications Han shows is a photographer's light box, where pictures can be selected and zoomed with quick dabs of the fingertips. He also brings up a keyboard, resizing it for his own hands: "There's no reason, in this day and age, that we should be conforming to a physical device," he says. "These interfaces should start conforming to us."

Han noted that the zoom capability could be useful in data visualization -- probably referring to the ability to dig into multilayered structures like the hyperbolic tree or cone tree from Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) .

But the example he used was less esoteric: a map of California, using two hands to quickly zoom and tilt and spin the image. Very cool.

Steve Jobs told The New York Times that Apple's touchscreen technology dates back two-and-a-half years; in any event, Han doesn't seem too upset about the snub. His talk ends with a mention that "there's a lot of other people" doing multi-touch research.

Speaking of giving credit where due, I got clued into this by Alan Lippman, the former RealNetworks Inc. (Nasdaq: RNWK) exec and recent signee to Redback Networks Inc. . Thanks, Alan.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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