Touch-Screen Controllers: What’s in Them?
To me the most surprising thing about the GTC 570 touch-screen controllers is how big they are. Their large size, in addition to their proximity — they are essentially at short-arm’s length away — make it easy to see what you’re doing on the controller. Large icons and oversize text give a feel to G2000 that is very consumerlike; users of Garmin’s Nuvi automotive navigators will feel right at home with the G2000 interface. The large screen also allowed G2000 designers to dedicate space for frequencies at the top of the display. One thing that all pilots do is talk on the radio (OK, almost all pilots), so that information is placed atop the screen for easy, never-changing reference.
The touch-screen controllers in G2000 are made so they are easy to touch accurately, even when the air is rough. The controller has built-in, contoured thumb and finger rests along its margins to allow you to hook a digit around the edge and make an accurate touch input. Physical controls are used in some instances, because they are better for doing a particular physical chore. An altimeter setting knob (“baro”) is included in the PFD controller, for instance, for that frequently used function, and a range knob is located on the touch-screen controller. Likewise, you get range, comm and volume knobs, among others, that allow you to access frequently used features. In most cases, you don’t need the knobs; you can make inputs using the touch-screen controller. Pilots will surely differ in how they use the controller. One of the guiding principles of G2000, and for Garmin as a company going forward, is that its products give users many different, equally easy pathways to arrive at the same desired function, the idea being that it doesn’t matter how you get there, just that you do get there.
These touch screens are also, no doubt, unlike others you’ve used. Unlike devices like the Apple iPad, which uses a capacitive touch screen, a technology that depends on the human touch to activate, the GTC 570s make use of infrared technology for its touch sensitivity. The controllers have several hundred infrared transmitters installed around the periphery of the screen that send a signal just a small fraction of an inch over the surface. When this matrix is interrupted by the tip of the finger — it doesn’t actually have to physically contact the screen — the controller registers a touch.
My flight in G2000 in a high-performance single, as I’ve said, was telling. The weather was IFR/marginal VFR with a relatively low overcast, thick layers, gusty winds and bumpy air. In other words, it was perfect weather for testing G2000.
With a little guidance from Ben, I did all my usual piloting chores to get the ATIS, dial up clearance delivery, get my clearance, talk to ground and run all checklists.
Calling up frequencies is easy. As I’ve said, there are multiple ways to get the information into the box, by either nominating it from a data screen on the touch controller or inputting it directly from the concentric knob on the lower right. Again, it’s all within easy arm’s reach. The way you input frequencies is different too. You can put a new frequency into the standby, as we’re all used to doing now, or you can put it directly into the active box and avoid having to swap frequencies.