Infographic: tracing the touchscreen back to the future

Just a few decades ago, touchscreen technology could only be found in science fiction books and film. However, touchscreens have become so ubiquitous that, today, most children believe displays lacking touch-based interactivity are broken.

Interestingly, the underlying technology for touchscreens can actually be traced back to the 1940s, although they weren’t even remotely physically feasible until at least 1965 when E.A. Johnson of the United Kingdom came up with what historians generally consider the very first finger-driven touchscreen. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until 1982 that the first human-controlled multitouch device was developed at the University of Toronto by Nimish Mehta.

It’s worth noting, at this juncture, that as humans, we have a particular fondness for touch.

Touch is apparently the first sense to develop in humans and may also be the last to fade. We’re also highly sensitive creatures, with five million touch receptors in our skin – 3,000 alone in a finger tip.

The infographic below outlines some of the more historic milestones in touchscreen history, along with some of the wackiest. For example, did you know the world’s largest touch screen is 10 meters long and can accept up to 100 multi-touch inputs at one time? No? Well you do now. This particular screen was developed by a group at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. Similarly, the “coolest” touchscreen ever made was developed by a Nokia Research Center team in Finland in 2010. Bringing a whole new meaning to “freeze frame,” Nokia created a 6.5 foot by 4.9 foot ice wall of touch.

Atmel_August Auto_Final

Of course Atmel has a few milestones of its own when it comes to touch. The firm snapped up Quantum Research Group Ltd., a developer of capacitive sensing IP, in 2008 and has been making its presence felt in the world of touchscreens ever since.

More recently, Atmel successfully developed, manufactured and shipped XSense, which can best be described as a high-performance, highly flexible touch sensor on extremely bendable, flexible plastic, allowing engineers to design devices with curved surfaces.

What’s the big deal about curves, you ask? Well, aside from them being sexier (ask any woman you know), curved screens actually cause a series of optical effects that result in improved contrast, color accuracy, readability, and overall image quality — especially under ambient light.

Another benefit of a curved screen is privacy, because when content is viewed from an off-center angle the content on screen is less visible.

Atmel’s XSense also allows for super accurate handwriting recognition with a stylus, which is useful if your handwriting is anywhere as bad as mine.

And, best of all, XSense is made right here in the USA; designed and manufactured in California and Colorado Springs.

Oh, and don’t forget, if you have a creative idea about what you’d do with a bendable, flexible touchscreen, why not enter our XSense design contest here for a chance to win $1500.

2 thoughts on “Infographic: tracing the touchscreen back to the future

  1. Pingback: Touch Screens: Some Interesting History and Info - Stuff Andy Makes - DIY, make, tinker, play

  2. Doug McPheters

    Your “touch” chronology includes touchless HMIs such as gesture technology, which requires use of pre-programmed commands. Don’t forget about touchless, holographic HoloTouch® HMI technology – operators merely pass a finger through holographic images of what would otherwise be keys, buttons or icons of the device, floating in the air at a convenient location. Devices using HoloTouch technology are entirely intuitive, have no moving parts to fail under use or abuse and preclude contamination transfer because there’s nothing to actually touch, plus simple and inexpensive to install.



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