The Mystery of Touchscreen Technology

by | Dec 21, 2011 | Hardware

It seems like touchscreen technology just came into our lives, yet we already take it for granted that when we touch an icon on our device a very specific action will be preformed. We expect the device to get it right, each time. A few years ago we wouldn’t have dreamed this was possible. Today, it’s a given that the latest and greatest gadgets will be equipped with a touchscreen.

While most of us use this technology on a daily basis, most of us do not know how it works. How does a screen know what to do when we touch an icon? There are many different types of touchscreen technologies but they all function based on a similar idea.

Resistive touchscreens

Many touchscreens today operate on the resistive model. Resistive touchscreens are coated with a thin electrically conductive layer. When you touch the screen, your fingertip causes the electrical current to change. This information is instantly sent to the device’s controller, which causes the unit to react to your touch. Resistive touchscreen technology is cheaper, and is the most frequent form of touchscreen used in products today. However, such touchscreens aren’t the most sensitive.

Surface wave touchscreen

This kind of touchscreen is popular as well. It relies on ultrasonic waves that pass over the touchscreen. When you touch the panel, you in essence alter the wave. Depending on how and where it is changed, specific data is given to the device’s controller to relay what action to preform.

Capacitive touchscreens

Devices that rely on capacitive touchscreens tend to have the sharpest image quality. Capacitive touchscreens are coated with a material that sends a continuous electrical current over the sensor. The good news is, the body is also a form of electrical device. This means that when you touch the screen you absorb some of the current. The device registers this interruption, causing it to send information to its controller. The device will then perform the action that you requested.

Fortunately, to enjoy touchscreen technology you don’t have to have a deep understanding of it. And you don’t have to be an engineer to realize this technology will become more popular, not less.