It’s something we already take for granted: whenever we touch an icon on the screens of our electronic devices, we expect something to happen. And not just anything, either; we expect our gadgets to do exactly what we want it to do, when we want it done, and all at the touch of a fingertip. It was not too far back that touchscreen technology was a source of wonder. These days, touchscreen technology is a given for many of the latest gizmos—from tablets to GPS units.
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 various types of touchscreen technologies but they all operate based on a similar idea.
This is the most common and the most affordable type of touchscreen technology today. With resistive technology, screens are coated with an electrically conductive layer. Your fingertip causes the electrical current to change when you touch the screen. The device’s controller receives the information and preforms the action you requested.
Surface wave touchscreen
This type of touchscreen is popular as well. It relies on ultrasonic waves that pass over the touchscreen. When you touch the panel, you essentially alter the wave. Depending on how and where it is changed, specific information is given to the device’s controller to relay what action to preform.
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 human body is also a type of electrical device. Consequently when you touch the screen you absorb some of the current. The device registers this disturbance, causing it to send information to its controller. The device will then perform the action which you requested.
Luckily, we don’t have to truly understand the science behind touchscreen technology have fun with it, and we don’t need to be engineers to understand that this technology isn’t going away any time soon.