Inside IT
Touch Screen Technology from A to Z

Jeff Han, CEO at Perceptive Pixel, drew people’s attention at a lecture back in 2006, by giving a demonstration of the multi-touch technology on a 36-inch touch screen. Unlike the existing touch screens which could only recognize a single touch, his technology which recognizes touches from ten fingers at the same time suggested new prospects for touch screen development.

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A year later, Apple introduced the iPhone with its multi-touch function and became a new innovative icon. Multi-touch technology is now considered a necessary part of any newly developed smart device.

Many industries have changed thanks to touch screen technology. Let’s have a look at its brief history as well as what’s happening now in the field.

the-history-of-touch-technology

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The world’s first touch screen (Source: http://goo.gl/34nfDf)

Do you know when touch screens were first introduced? It was in 1965 by Doc. E. A. Johnson in England. His touch screen which recognized a single touch at a time surprised many people.

At the time, capacitive touch screens were used. Capacitive touch screens recognize the location of a finger touching the screen through the movement of electrons that are relocated due to a micro current created by the finger on the screen. This method is still being used quite often.

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The technology kept on advancing and gave birth to resistive touch screens and then multi-touch technology was developed at Toronto University in 1982. Touch screens began to gain commercial popularity in the 1980s thanks to a computer called HP-150.

As smart phones and tablets gained popularity in the 2000s, it became impossible to imagine our daily lives without touch screens. I’d like to introduce various types of touch screen technology according to their input methods.

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Even though the basic idea—operating a machine through touch—is the same, these technologies are labeled differently depending on how they recognize motion on their screen.

① Capacitive Touch Screens

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LG Andro-1, the first Android phone in Korea with capacitive touch technology applied (Source: LG Mobile website)

Capacitive touch screens recognize pressure created by fingers, so each touch needs to have a similar amount of pressure. Some people find this method more convenient, since the screen will recognize a touch even when users are wearing gloves our touch the screen with other objects. Capacitive touch screens were common in early smart phones.

Recently Apple applied 3D touch technology to its iPhone 6S, using capacitive touch technology which opens new functions when touched with different amounts of pressure. This is considered a new future for the touch panel industry.

The problem with this technology is its low screen resolution due to the many layers of touch panels stacked inside.

② Resistive Touch Screens

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LG Stylus 2 (Source: LG Electronics website)

LG Stylus introduced at MCW 2016 was the first LG product with a touch-pen. The technology used in this product is a resistive touch screen, which operates according to the electronic wave created when a finger is put on the screen.

Resistive touch screens have fewer malfunctions compared to capacitive touch screens, but they aren’t able to recognize a finger when users are wearing gloves or when they touch the screen with other objects. LG Stylus 2 also requires either a user’s finger or the touch-pen which is included with the product. 

③ Infrared Light Touch Screens

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Kiosk inside Dongdaemun Design Plaza

Infrared light touch screens are less common compared to those previously mentioned, but they can be commonly found at kiosks and ATMs.

First, two sides are chosen (one vertical and one horizontal) of the square touch screen, and infrared light emitting diodes are installed on those sides. Sensors are put on the other two sides without diodes.

The diodes send infrared light toward the sensors, and the whole screen looks like a plaid pattern when visualized. When you put your finger on the screen, the infrared light is blocked by the finger, and this moment is captured to recognized the touch.

Infrared light touch screens are being used in a wide range of areas including those in vehicles and the multi-touch screens at corporate meetings.

prospects-of-touch-technology

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Apple has announced that they will install touch screens to the MacBook Pro to lead the global competition. The industry is actively incorporating new touch screen technologies.

One possibility for the future is virtual tactile technology, and you can check out specifics in the following LG CNS blog posting.

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Touch screens will be applied to more diverse objects like car windows and other various smart devices, and related industries will grow tremendously in the future.

For example, LG Electronics drew international attention at SID 2016 when it introduced an automobile display product which works even while wearing gloves.

A research team also created a transparent elastic touch screen by applying hydrogel, and this technology is expected to help develop flexible displays.

With touch screens, we can operate machines much more easily and freely. The technology has boosted multiple industries, and new technologies like screens attachable to human bodies are being developed currently. I look forward to seeing how the industry grows in the near future.

Written by Yonghoon Kim, LG CNS Student Reporter

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