With tablets emerging as this year’s hottest category of electronic devices, and even more expected at the big Computex show in Taiwan next week, I’m seeing much more interest in touchscreen technologies. But even though touch is now common on smart phones and tablets and is appearing on desktop and notebook computers, the field still seems very fluid, with lots of competing technologies and vendors.
Indeed, at the Society for Information Display (SID) Display Week show this week, there must have been at least forty different vendors with touchscreen technologies. Jennifer Colegrave, Director of Display Technologies for DisplaySearch, says there are more than a dozen different technologies on the market, ranging from resistive (typically used with a styus), to projected capacitive (which is most popular on multi-touch mobile phones) to optical imaging (which is getting used more in all-in-one computers) to new technologies that actually build touch into the display panel itself.
For instance, NextWindow, which makes many of the touchsceen technologies used on desktops and all-in-ones, was pushing its optical touch solutions, which you’ll see in a number of all-in-one and desktop computers, including those from HP and Dell.
More photos and information on touchscreen at SID after the jump.
As an alternative, Elo TouchSystems showed a variety of technologies but was pushing its Surface acoustic wave technology, which it says offers multi-touch in a more durable format. The company, which claims Lenovo as a customer, was showing how it could turn any piece of class into a touchscreen just by adding a couple of tiny sensors. It was quite cool.
Many of the demos focused on tablets and slates, though. Stantum, for instance, took a Dell Inspiron Mini 10 netbook and turned it into a 10.1-inch multi-touch slate as a proof of concept device. The company is pushing its resistive multi-touch technology.
And N-Trig, which uses projective capacity technology, says you can use its technology both with your finger and with an active stylus. The advantage here is clear: Fingers are great for navigating, but if you’re running a CAD program or editing pictures, you may want the precision of a pen.
So as you can see, there are lots of different technologies out already and more coming. Of course, just about everyone showing an e-reader display had a touchscreen, and many showed multiple technologies.
One thing that is clear. Touch is the user interface that is getting the most attention this year. While I’m convinced the software that takes advantage of touch will be the key differentiator–how applications work, what gestures you can use, and so on–it all requires fast, reliable, and durable touch technologies to make it work.