A touchscreen is unarguably one of the hottest market segments in technology. In the United States, the market for touch screen mobile devices alone is expected to generate US$5billion in 2009. Ever since the launch of Apple’s I-phone, there has been a rainfall of touchscreen devices in the market.
Believe it or not, touchscreens emerged from research labs as early as the late 1960s. The first commercial computer to use the technology was the HP-150 in 1983. From then on, the usage has expanded to kiosks, tourist booths, ATMs, electronic voting machines, ticket machines, learning and to personalized devices as well, in varying capabilities.
There are a number of technologies that touchscreen manufacturers have available to them. Ranging from the most primitive infra-red transmitters detecting non-transparent objects, screens can now absorb ultrasonic waves, detect touch through small amounts of electric charge and transmission through a number of layers. With differing techniques also come factors of external damage, clarity and sensitivity to touch. With the bursting onto the scene of the touchscreen phenomenon technological developments have picked up pace, but the hardness of touch, and detection of multiple touches among others remain unperfected.
It is intriguing why an imperfect technology, a tad higher on the cost side, sometimes lower on quality or number of features still attracts consumers like bees to a honey pot. The USP of touchscreen technology is that it’s incredibly easy to use. It provides for a one to one interaction with the activity that you’re doing as opposed to punching buttons to get something done. Using one’s sense of touch and having a colour-based interface understanding and responding to your command appeals to the consumer. Easy to use interfaces have gone a long way in promoting touchscreen technology in almost all wakes of life.
Touchscreens put up as much information as you need to perform a particular task. Even if the task is complex, it simplifies and breaks down the process, probably explaining each step. This comes about from adaptability, because of absence of fixed buttons. While your regular keypad can have only so many keys with defined functionality, a touch screen can show unlimited number of ‘keys’ depending on the application that you’re using, tailor made for whatever action is to be taken. For making a call, a 0-9 number keypad will be shown; for sending a text message, a qwerty keyboard interface can be shown.
With the increase in popularity, and many of the patents of touchscreen technology now expiring, there has been a surge of entrants in the market, not just for the technology, but also for its auxiliaries like applications used on the devices. Being integrated into the product, the extra cost of the touchscreen has almost been eliminated. Rise in quality of the screens, their capabilities has gone through the roof. The intense competition will lower prices, increase usability in different areas, and develop the applications that people have access to. The purpose of any technology is to do more, with less cost and touch screens with their interactive panache do just that, adding on to the human experience.