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Title: The variety of touchscreen

A touchscreen is an electronic visual display that can detect the presence and location of a touch within the display area.There are a variety of touchscreen technologies that have different methods of sensing touch.

A child solves a computerized puzzle using a touchscreen.
iPad tablet computer on a stand
A resistive touchscreen panel comprises several layers, the most important of which are two thin, transparent electrically-resistive layers separated by a thin space. These layers face each other, with a thin gap between.The top screen or the screen which experiences our touch has a coating on the underside surface of the screen. Just beneath it is a similar resistive layer on top of its substrate. One layer has conductive connections along its sides, the other along top and bottom. A voltage is passed through one layer, and sensed at the other. When an object, such as a fingertip or stylus tip, presses down on the outer surface, the two layers touch to become connected at that point: The panel then behaves as a pair of voltage dividers, one axis at a time. By rapidly switching between each layer, the position of a pressure on the screen can be read.

Resistive touch is used in restaurants, factories and hospitals due to its high resistance to liquids and contaminants. A major benefit of resistive touch technology is its low cost. Disadvantages include the need to press down, and a risk of damage by sharp objects. Resistive touchscreens also suffer from poorer contrast, due to having additional reflections from the extra layer of material placed over the screen.

Surface acoustic wave (SAW) technology uses ultrasonic waves that pass over the touchscreen panel. When the panel is touched, a portion of the wave is absorbed. This change in the ultrasonic waves registers the position of the touch event and sends this information to the controller for processing. Surface wave touchscreen panels can be damaged by outside elements. Contaminants on the surface can also interfere with the functionality of the touchscreen.
Capacitive touchscreen of a mobile phone

A capacitive touchscreen panel consists of an insulator such as glass, coated with a transparent conductor such as indium tin oxide (ITO).[14][15] As the human body is also an electrical conductor, touching the surface of the screen results in a distortion of the screen’s electrostatic field, measurable as a change in capacitance. Different technologies may be used to determine the location of the touch. The location is then sent to the controller for processing. Unlike a resistive touchscreen, one cannot use a capacitive touchscreen through most types of electrically insulating material, such as gloves; one requires a special capacitive stylus, or a special-application glove with an embroidered patch of conductive thread passing through it and contacting the user’s fingertip. This disadvantage especially affects usability in consumer electronics, such as touch tablet PCs and capacitive smartphones in cold weather.

Surface capacitance

In this basic technology, only one side of the insulator is coated with a conductive layer. A small voltage is applied to the layer, resulting in a uniform electrostatic field. When a conductor, such as a human finger, touches the uncoated surface, a capacitor is dynamically formed. The sensor’s controller can determine the location of the touch indirectly from the change in the capacitance as measured from the four corners of the panel. As it has no moving parts, it is moderately durable but has limited resolution, is prone to false signals from parasitic capacitive coupling, and needs calibration during manufacture. It is therefore most often used in simple applications such as industrial controls and kiosks.

Projected capacitance
Back site of a Multitouch Globe, based on Projected Capacitive Touch (PCT) technology.

Projected Capacitive Touch (PCT; also PCAP) technology is a variant of capacitive touch technology. All PCT touch screens are made up of a matrix of rows and columns of conductive material, layered on sheets of glass. This can be done either by etching a single conductive layer to form a grid pattern of electrodes, or by etching two separate, perpendicular layers of conductive material with parallel lines or tracks to form a grid. Current applied to this grid creates a uniform electrostatic field, which can be measured. When a conductive object, such as a finger, comes into contact with a PCT panel, it distorts the local electrostatic field at that point. This is measurable as a change in capacitance. If a finger bridges the gap between two of the "tracks", the charge field is further interrupted and detected by the controller. The capacitance can be changed and measured at every individual point on the grid (intersection). Therefore, this system is able to accurately track touches.Due to the top layer of a PCT being glass, it is a more robust solution than less costly resistive touch technology. Additionally, unlike traditional capacitive touch technology, it is possible for a PCT system to sense a passive stylus or gloved fingers. However, moisture on the surface of the panel, high humidity, or collected dust can interfere with the performance of a PCT system. There are two types of PCT: mutual capacitance and self-capacitance.

Mutual capacitance

This is common PCT approach, which makes use of the fact that most conductive objects are able to hold a charge if they are very close together. In mutual capacitive sensors, there is a capacitor at every intersection of each row and each column. A 16-by-14 array, for example, would have 224 independent capacitors. A voltage is applied to the rows or columns. Bringing a finger or conductive stylus close to the surface of the sensor changes the local electrostatic field which reduces the mutual capacitance. The capacitance change at every individual point on the grid can be measured to accurately determine the touch location by measuring the voltage in the other axis. Mutual capacitance allows multi-touch operation where multiple fingers, palms or styli can be accurately tracked at the same time.


Self-capacitance sensors can have the same X-Y grid as mutual capacitance sensors, but the columns and rows operate independently. With self-capacitance, the capacitive load of a finger is measured on each column or row electrode by a current meter. This method produces a stronger signal than mutual capacitance, but it is unable to resolve accurately more than one finger, which results in "ghosting", or misplaced location sensing.

Infrared sensors mounted around the display watch for a user’s touchscreen input on this PLATO V terminal in 1981. The monochromatic plasma display’s characteristic orange glow is illustrated.

An infrared touchscreen uses an array of X-Y infrared LED and photodetector pairs around the edges of the screen to detect a disruption in the pattern of LED beams. These LED beams cross each other in vertical and horizontal patterns. This helps the sensors pick up the exact location of the touch. A major benefit of such a system is that it can detect essentially any input including a finger, gloved finger, stylus or pen. It is generally used in outdoor applications and point of sale systems which can not rely on a conductor (such as a bare finger) to activate the touchscreen. Unlike capacitive touchscreens, infrared touchscreens do not require any patterning on the glass which increases durability and optical clarity of the overall system. Infrared touchscreens are sensitive to dirt/dust that can interfere with the IR beams, and suffer from parallax in curved surfaces and accidental press when the user hovers his/her finger over the screen while searching for the item to be selected.

Optical imaging

Optical touchscreens are a relatively modern development in touchscreen technology, in which two or more image sensors are placed around the edges (mostly the corners) of the screen. Infrared back lights are placed in the camera’s field of view on the other side of the screen. A touch shows up as a shadow and each pair of cameras can then be pinpointed to locate the touch or even measure the size of the touching object (see visual hull). This technology is growing in popularity, due to its scalability, versatility, and affordability, especially for larger units.

Dispersive signal technology

Introduced in 2002 by 3M, this system uses sensors to detect the piezoelectricity in the glass that occurs due to a touch. Complex algorithms then interpret this information and provide the actual location of the touch. The technology claims to be unaffected by dust and other outside elements, including scratches. Since there is no need for additional elements on screen, it also claims to provide excellent optical clarity. Also, since mechanical vibrations are used to detect a touch event, any object can be used to generate these events, including fingers and stylus. A downside is that after the initial touch the system cannot detect a motionless finger.

Acoustic pulse recognition

In this system, introduced by Tyco International’s Elo division in 2006, the key to the invention is that a touch at each position on the glass generates a unique sound. Four tiny transducers attached to the edges of the touchscreen glass pick up the sound of the touch. The sound is then digitized by the controller and compared to a list of prerecorded sounds for every position on the glass. The cursor position is instantly updated to the touch location. APR is designed to ignore extraneous and ambient sounds, since they do not match a stored sound profile. APR differs from other attempts to recognize the position of touch with transducers or microphones, in using a simple table lookup method rather than requiring powerful and expensive signal processing hardware to attempt to calculate the touch location without any references.The touchscreen itself is made of ordinary glass, giving it good durability and optical clarity. It is usually able to function with scratches and dust on the screen with good accuracy. The technology is also well suited to displays that are physically larger. Similar to the dispersive signal technology system, after the initial touch, a motionless finger cannot be detected. However, for the same reason, the touch recognition is not disrupted by any resting objects.


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