It's summer and the only gloves you may be wearing these days are for the garden. New technology for touch screens will allow you to use your phone while wearing gloves, whether they be for seeds or snow.
The first applications for these screens will go into industrial settings, Codey Jenkins of Columbus, Ohio-based ScripTel told Discovery News. But there has been a lot of interest from smartphone and tablet makers as well. Aside from environments where gloves are necessary — say, in a factory — the technology applied to tablets or smartphones might be very useful on cold days.
Most touch screens on the market today only work if you touch them with your bare fingers. The reason is that the human body conducts a small amount of electricity, and when a finger gets near a screen, it distorts the electric field generated by a conductive layer below the glass.
For a screen to detect more than one finger — essential for multi-touch systems — a grid of tiny conductors, or capacitors, are arranged below the glass. The capacitance of every point on the grid changes according to how many fingers are touching and where they are. That changes the voltage flowing through the conductive layer, and a control circuit can then decipher where the fingers are.
ScripTel's system uses a similar system, except the capacitors all operate independently. So instead of detecting capacitance changes over the whole grid, the control circuits see changes at a specific point. While the signal is stronger, it doesn't always place the location of the finger as accurately. But by increasing the voltage through the conductive layer they can increase its sensitivity and allow it to pick up the tiny bit of electricity flowing from a human finger through a glove.
Another feature of the technology is putting the conductive layer below a piece of plastic, rather than glass. That allows it to bend and makes it tougher than current models.
Other companies have attempted to tackle the glove problem. Japan's SMK has built a touch screen for cars, for example, that will go in navigational systems. SMK didn't offer details on which touch screen strategy they use.
Jenkins said besides the touch screen itself, Scriptel has built a better control algorithm, to improve the accuracy of the finger detection.