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March 2010 : ECN
By Guillaume Largillier, Stantum, www.stantum.com
With the fast-growing popularity of multi-touch functionality in a wide variety of consumer electronics and professional products, not enough attention is being paid to the actual needs of the end user. Product planners, designers, and third-party integrators of multi-touch technology need to strike the right balance between look-and-feel and usability – to find the right mixture of hardware and software; and, most importantly, to design their products for the user, not their own egos.
To respond to user needs, product developers must employ multi-touch technology that literally responds to the user – and even to multiple users. There are multi-touch technologies available today that allow on-screen collaboration, screen sharing and social computing. These touchscreen systems are easier and less costly to build than those that use capacitive multi-touch. Also, because the technology is force activated, it offers so much more user-centric functionality – working not just with fingers, as with capacitive multi-touch, but with all types of contact objects, including fingernails and styli; it even works with gloved or wet hands.
When one or multiple touches occur on such touch-panels, the top layer slightly bends, thus creating contact between the two layers right below the touches. The multi-touch controller chip detects the electrical contacts and determines the exact location of the touches.
The Stantum technology uses two thin and transparent (glass or plastic) overlays covered with conductive material. The material is patterned in rows on one side and columns on the other, transforming the layers into a matrix of conductive tracks. The two layers are assembled superposed, the conductive sides facing each other and separated by a spacing material (transparent dots, air, etc.). Touch contact modifies the electrical properties, and each axis (X, Y and Z pressure) can be measured by the microcontroller. This can be done not just for one isolated touch but for an unlimited number of touches, and simultaneously. The technology reports any change of electric characteristics, using an exceptional acquisition frame rate that enables extremely fast response. Stantum has patented a unique controlling method and combined it with algorithms to detect and track an unlimited number of synchronic contacts.
Pressure sensitivity is another hallmark of Stantum’s multi-touch technology. The pressure detection can differentiate three distinct levels of pressure – soft, medium and hard. Depending on how strong the user touches the screen, the device is able to react differently, which allows implementation of safer, more sophisticated interactions with devices such as mobile phones, gaming consoles, PCs, netbooks, MIDs, PDAs, and PNDs, and digital cameras.
Stantum’s type of multi-touch technology is also suitable for products sold into Asian markets because of its precision and stylus input enabling handwriting recognition. Mobile gaming is also very high on the market application list since the unlimited inputs – all with X, Y and Z data streams and fast-response – enable so many new uses for software developers to invent cool and unique applications.
Stantum is the only provider of multi-touch technology that offers such advanced features while maintaining cost and power efficiency.
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