Multi Touch Technology – Dummies Guide

Feb 23 • General, Opinion • 2543 Views • Comments Off on Multi Touch Technology – Dummies Guide


Today in this modern world, the electronic gadgets are the most favorite pet of the common people. Among them, the maximum ones developed very recently are closer to the people because of one of their special property that is the touch sensing property. They all recognize the touch of finger as input. Like one can scroll through any list, type number or any text, etc. using one finger and while seeing an image one can zoom in and zoom out of the picture, rotate the picture, etc. using two or more fingers.

Before going further let us go back to the time when there were only regular desktop computers. And the only devices at that time to interact with the computer were the mouse and the keyboard. Results of the interactions were displayed on the monitor. Both the mouse and the keyboard are typical examples of single pointing devices. Even the software at that time supported only single pointing devices.

Now if we compare the technologies at that time with now, we can say that this is a new era of freer human computer interaction. And the technology for which we are enjoying this freer interaction in the above mentioned amazing electronic devices is called the multi touch technology.


A famous quote:

Touching is believing”.

The multi touch technology is one of the awesome technologies of the present and the future which works on the above principle. Here one can do a work on the multi touch system just by giving a feather touch of his/her finger on the interface. Also this interface is having a special quality. It can recognize more than one touch at a time i.e., it allows one or more users to interact with the computer applications through various gestures created by fingers on the surface. Some interfaces even recognize by the pressure and temperature differences on the surface.


According to some PC magazines, the touch screen is actually an electronic display device that is sensitive to the touch of a finger or stylus. It has mainly three components:

  • The touch sensor:A glass panel with touch responsive surface. It was first developed by Dr. Samuel G. Hurst in the year 1971. It is having a stream of electrical signal going through it. So as soon as anything touches the surface, there is a signal change in that position locating the place of touch. 
  • The controller:The hardware that connects the sensor and the computer. It also converts the voltage change on the sensor into signals which the computer or other devices can receive and understand for further processing.
  • The software of Touch Technology:It does the functioning of coping up the computer with the sensor. It also tells the device what is happening on the surface and the information coming out from the controller.

This design was first proposed and invented by E. A. Johnson in the year 1965. It was a capacitive touch screen. But that was not meant for people or consumers. Then in the year 1981, the first resistive touch screen was invented by Samuel G Hurst. And it became popular in the year 1982.


The types of this technology are mainly based on the interfaces. There are mainly four types of interfaces:

  • Resistive interface:It is a normal glass panel with a resistive as well as conductive layer on it. They are able to recognize any input device including a gloved hand or a stylus or even a rubber ball. This is so because it is pressure sensitive, it can recognize a touch as long as the two layers are in contact, no matter with what. However these are much prone to getting damaged by sharp objects. But the main problem is with its low clarity. A person with low vision may face problem using it.
capactive interface

how interface interacts

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touch interface







  • Capacitive Interface:It consists of a glass panel with a layer on it which can store electrical charge in it. Imagine! A layer that can store electrical charge in it! Really the man who developed this type of layer owes the credit.

Now this layer when compared with the above one, it is found that these are more durable and also provide high clarity than the above. But it can only recognize the input which is grounded like bare hand.

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surface acoustic wave interface

  • Surface acoustic wave interface:This technology is new. It uses ultrasonic waves which pass over the screen. It happens mainly because of the two transducers, one for sending the signal and the other for receiving, at the x-y plane of the screen. So as soon as we touch the panel, there is a change in frequency of the ultrasonic waves. This change is registered by the controller or the receiver. The panel is a plain glass without any coating on it. So there is no chance of worning out of the surface. This also provides high clarity and has no problems with gloved hands or styluses. But it is considerably more expensive and not well supported.
touch technology

surface acoustic wave technology

touch technology

surface acoustic wave technology


  • Infrared Interface:This technology is the latest and easily supported. The basic architecture of it is that it consists of two layers of acrylic glass sheet and in between them, it is lined with infrared LEDs. So the light coming out of each LEDs travel in between the two layers following the principle of total internal reflection. Now if anything touched the surface of the layer from outside, the lights incident at that point suffered an obstruction and due to that the light gets diffracted. And the position of the diffracted ray is captured and calculated by the controller and sent to the processor for further processing.
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touch interface

touch technology

touch interface



Today the multi touch technology has become the common place of attraction. The increment in the shipping of touch screen phones from 2, 00,000 in 2006 to 21 million in 2012 has proved that.

Another famous example of this technology other than the touch phones and the tablets is THE CITY WALL at Helsinki, Finland which was launched in October 2008. It is true that our vision has no limit, so this technology has contributed in it this boundless interactive video wall as a solution to transform our vision to reality.

touch technology

touch interface

touch technology

touch interface

Not only that, a company named isiQiri, which promises to make our world interactive, even brought a technology by which one can interact with the screen by a laser pointers and laser pen. Just imagine, without touching one can interact with the touch interface. But alas! It is still now not available in all interfaces.

Logitech, not remaining behind, has also contributed to this technology by bringing in front of common people a trackpad of size 5 by 5 ¼ inches for Mac OS which works like a normal touch pad. And the most interesting feature of it is that it is Bluetooth enabled. So it can be connected with a laptop or desktop and can be used from upto 30 feet away.

Now let me give you a shock. Its already mentioned above that one can interact with a multi touch interface without touching it but with the help of a laser pointer. But you will be really surprised to learn that a brand new touch sensor technology is introduced in which you can interact with the surface by neither touching it nor using any laser pointer. Yes, this technology is named as the Floating Touch. In this you can interact with the interface from upto 20mm above the screen. And the credit for this amazing technology goes to Xperia sola.

touch technology

floating touch technology


The next step of the multi touch technology, called the tactile or the haptic technology, is proved to be the most promising technology till date. It is said that this technology can imitate any texture on the screen, whether it may be of sandpaper or dirt or keypad buttons, anything. Amazing right!

touch technology

isiQiri’s touch technology

Another superior value is tried to be added to this technology by isiQiri’s proprietary Optical Sensor Technology. This superior value would yield a super fast multi touch technology.

Again STANTUM and NISSHA PRINTING is a company which is trying to introduce a fully new “Disruptive Multi Touch Technology”.  Though its details are still unveiled.


The security of any system is very important. So currently a very rigorous research is going on to develop the security system of the multi touch technology. The researchers are aiming to develop some sort of derma sensitive security system. It specializes in the field that it will recognize only the touch of the person to whom the system belongs. Till now no details are given out because if men can develop such a system for the security, then it is the men only who can develop system to breach them.


While the next generation of touch screen is yet not ready to be released, we can easily see where the changes are beneficial. And it will be interesting to see the next developments.

Want to know about the Further Amazing Inventions of Multi-Touch Technology

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