Apple, Inc. recently pioneered a new type of touchscreen technology that allows devices to recognize the pressure of a user’s touch. Known as 3D Touch, it allows different actions to take place depending on the pressure exerted by the user’s touch. A light tap may function as the “enter” key when viewing a website, for instance, whereas a long tap may select a portion of text. Force Touch has been used on the Apple Watch and MacBook, although Apple has said it plans to expand the technology into other devices.
Another touchscreen trend to watch is the use of infrared (IR) touchscreens. Unlike standard touchscreens, IRs feature an array of criss-crossing infrared light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs, along with pairs of photodetectors around the edges of the screen. The photodetectors are designed to identify a disruption in the pattern of the LED beams. Because the LEDs are arranged in a standard X-Y pattern, point of touch is easily calculated by identifying the disruption. One of the key benefits offered by IR touchscreens is the ability to detect any input, regardless of whether or not the user is wearing gloves. Capacitive touchscreens, for instance, typically don’t function properly with gloves, as it obstructs the flow of electricity from the user’s hand to the device. With IR devices, however, touch is calculated by identifying the disruption in the LED pattern, meaning it will work with or without gloves.
There’s been a growing emphasis on the use of haptics feedback in touchscreen devices, and for good reason: when a user enters a command, he or she wants to know the device registered it. Without haptics, there’s really no way to tell if a touchscreen device registered a command (other than looking to see if the action was performed). This problem is easily solved, however, through the use of haptics feedback like vibration. Each time a user touches a key or performs an operation, the device responds with a light vibration, indicating that the command was properly registered. Many smartphones and tablets have already integrated haptics feedback technology into their systems, and analysts predict this trend will continue in the years to come.
Dispersal Signal Technology
Last but not least, many touchscreen devices are now using dispersal signal technology. First pioneered by 3M, it consists of sensors that detect piezoelectricity in the display’s glass. The device then collects and analyzes this data to determine where the touch occurred. 3M touts dispersal signal technology as being highly accurate and resistant to moisture, dust and other elements.
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