Another touch screen technology tips up

Uses interpolating force-sensitive resistance technology

TOUCH SCREEN TECHNOLOGY has been one of the big things in the past year, especially the battle between resistive and capacitive technology with most people preferring the latter as it’s easier to use with your fingers. However, now there seem to be a new player entering the market as a New York University start up is getting ready to unleash its interpolating force-sensitive resistance touch sensor technology onto an unsuspecting world.

The company is called Touchco and its interpolating force-sensitive resistance touch sensor technology – or IFSR for short – is set to revolutionize the world of touch screen devices. IFSR uses force sensitive resistors and depending on the level of pressure, they become more or less sensitive. The IFSR touch sensor technology has been developed especially with multi-touch in mind. Considering how hyped multi-touch has been this year, not only on displays, but also on notebook touch pads and even with Apple’s new Magic Mouse, it’s hard to see how Touchco won’t at least gain at lot of interest from potential partners.

The big advantages of IFSR are low power usage, unlimited simultaneous touch inputs and the ability to make flexible multi-touch displays. The technology is also said to be very inexpensive compared to competing solutions and Touchco is expecting the cost per square foot to be as little as $10. It’s important to remember that this is only the touch screen technology and not the underlying display as well. This also means that it might be a while before we get to see any flexible displays using this technology.

Touchco has developed a wide range of prototype devices using the IFSR touch sensor technology. Unlike more traditional touch screen technology, IFSR isn’t limited to an electrical connection being made either by the two layers of a resistive screen touch or by your finger in case of a capacitive screen. Touchco has several demo videos on its website that shows off some of the advantages of the IFSR touch sensor technology and it’s hard not to be impressed. Not only are the IFSR touch sensors extremely pressure sensitive, but they can also be used with your fingers (or hands) as well as a stylus.

It will be interesting to see what devices this technology will end up in, but at the moment it seems like most of the demos rely on the IFSR technology as a touch surface rather than something fitted to a display. However, Touchco does have a demo where an e-ink display is fitted on top of the IFSR touch sensor. The IFSR touch sensor is then able to feel the touch input through the e-ink display. This wouldn’t be possible on a normal TFT type display, as a TFT display is too rigid. It will be interesting to see how Touchco gets around this snag, as the IFSR screens aren’t transparent due to the way the technology works.

However, Touchco is working on a clear version of its IFSR technology, but it’s not clear how close the clear type is to being ready for mass production. Even in its current state the IFSR technology is very interesting for notebook touchpads and larger types of touch interfaces where devices such as the Wacom pen tablets have traditionally been used. A low-cost, pressure sensitive, large surface, multi-touch interface would most likely be welcomed by many designers and computer artists, not to mention many home users.

Touchco is said to be in talks with device manufacturers and has begun to sell a developer kit. Retail products using the IFSR technology should be available by late 2010, although there’s no information as to what type of devices we can expect to see.S|A

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