How Does Touchscreen Technology Work?

Touchscreens are becoming an integral part of our way of life. When we interact with a device that has a touchscreen, we expect it to execute the action we want without a second thought. It wasn’t too far in the past that the idea of a touchscreen was a dream. Yet, today we see it as a common feature in many devices.

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 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 will cause 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 less expensive, and is the most common form of touchscreen used in products today. However, such touchscreens are not the most sensitive.

Surface wave touchscreen

Another popular type of touchscreen is the surface wave model. This type of screen relies on ultrasonic waves that pass across the touchscreen panel. When you touch the panel, you absorb a part of the wave. Again, this sends information to the device’s controller, which then tells the device what you want it to do.

Capacitive touchscreens

Capacitive touchscreens usually have the sharpest image quality. Devices employing this technology are coated with a material that sends an electrical current across the screen. As the human body is electrical, when you touch the screen, you absorb some of the electric current which disrupts the flow across the device. Just as with the other types of touchscreen, the disruption sends information to the device’s controller. The device then performs the action that you requested, at the touch of a fingertip.

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.


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