New capacitive touch screen supports stylus, non-conductive input

Years ago, resistive touch screens dominated the landscape. They were the only game in town for tablet PCs and PDAs, and the stylus was king. More recently, smartphones and tablets have called upon capacitive touch screens capable of tracking one’s fingertips. These screens lack the precision that can be achieved with stylus-based input, but they support multitouch gestures that are arguably more important for modern devices.

A traditional capacitive touch screen can only track contact with conductive objects that disturb the display’s electrostatic field. That works great for a fingertip, but not so much for the average stylus. Hitachi thinks you should be able to use both, and it’s developed a new capacitive screen tech that does just that. The new touch panel is said to work with fingers, plastic styluses (or is that stylii?), gloved hands, and other non-conductive implements. It’s apparently quite accurate, too; when tracking a stylus with an 8-mm tip, the screen’s margin of error for coordinate detection is claimed to be +/- 0.5 mm.

What’s even more intriguing about this display is that it’s capable of tracking finger- and stylus-based input simultaneously. Unlike resistive touch screens, which generally require a little bit of pressure, Hitachi says this new capacitive design remains responsive to light touches.

Such a display has all kinds of potential for smartphones and tablets. The former could use an alternative to hardware keyboards with tiny keys and on-screen implementations that lack tactile feedback. The Graffiti shorthand Palm used with its stylus-equipped PDAs remains one of the most intuitive systems I’ve encountered, and I suspect today’s mobile devices have enough horsepower to handle real handwriting recognition, too. Tablets offer a much larger canvas and have even more to gain, especially for students who need to take notes that include diagrams, mathematical formulas, and the occasional doodle.

Hitachi showed off the display at the FPD International exhibition in Japan last week. There’s no word yet on how the new screen’s cost compares with that of traditional capacitive displays, but production is planned for the second half of next year. DigInfo has posted a short video demo on YouTube if you want to see the prototype in action. Thanks to Slashdot for the tip.

Comments closed
    • Wirko
    • 9 years ago

    “Traditional” capacitive touch screens? My grandma never told me they had those when she was young. I suppose they only had HTCs and Samsungs with infrared touch screen back then. Handwriting recognition wasn’t much of a problem anyway because most people were masters of callighrapy (by today’s standards).

    • barich
    • 9 years ago

    I’ve used resistive screen devices for a long time, so I still try to tap buttons on my Droid with my fingernail on occasion, a year after I bought it. Fingernails and styluses allow for more precision and also don’t get my screen any smearier than it already is. Adding this ability back in, while keeping all of the advantages of a capacitive screen, is a welcome improvement.

    • dpaus
    • 9 years ago

    Hmmm, I wonder how well this works with Corning’s Gorilla Glass??

    • fredsnotdead
    • 9 years ago

    l[

      • ludi
      • 9 years ago

      “Let’s kick this stylus up a notch…”

      According to the source PR, that should actually be 0.8mm.

      • cygnus1
      • 9 years ago

      that’s what she said

    • UberGerbil
    • 9 years ago

    g[

      • MadManOriginal
      • 9 years ago

      On top of that, supposedly thanks to the ubiquity of technology and especially starting with email, handwriting quality has dropped dramatically. An early 20’s co-worker told me that they i[

    • Convert
    • 9 years ago

    I’m waiting for cheap IR panels to become more common. You can get a 2 point 32inch IR kit for around $800, would be nice if it was around $200 🙂

    • can-a-tuna
    • 9 years ago

    Apple: all your multitouch is belong to us.

    • eitje
    • 9 years ago

    This made me want to get another tablet for Christmas.

    • Rectal Prolapse
    • 9 years ago

    I can’t wait for Apple to invent this!

      • Jigar
      • 9 years ago

      I can’t wait for Apple to sue them…

        • TaBoVilla
        • 9 years ago

        I can’t sue for apple to wait me

      • BoBzeBuilder
      • 9 years ago

      I can’t wait for Sue to apple them.

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 9 years ago

    I love graffiti! I hope that handwriting recognition takes a more prevelant roll in touch interfaces since the screen keyboards are not very good, no matter what you do to them.

    • Majiir Paktu
    • 9 years ago

    This seems useful for tablets, but less applicable to smartphones. With technologies like Swype out in the wild, there’s no reason to go back to Graffiti or traditional keyboards.

    The real benefit here is that tablets can use intuitive multitouch interfaces while also offering the precision that a stylus offers (for drawing diagrams, et cetera).

    • BoBzeBuilder
    • 9 years ago

    Deja Vu.

      • SomeOtherGeek
      • 9 years ago

      Deja Vu day for you, Bob?

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