Not all touchscreens are powered by resistive or capacitive technology. Some are powered by other touch-sensing technologies, including optical imaging. While optical imaging is relatively uncommon — especially when compared to resistive and capacitive — it offers a viable alternative for consumers and businesses looking to purchase a new touchscreen. Unless you’re familiar with the technology, though, you might be wondering how optical imaging touchscreens work.

The Basics of Optical Imaging Touchscreens

An optical imaging touchscreen is a type of touchscreen that’s characterized by the use of image sensors and infrared (IR) lights to detect touch commands. In other words, the perimeter of an optical imaging touchscreen features camera-like sensors and IR lights. The IR lights project light across the display surface to the corresponding sensor or sensors on the opposite side. When you tap or touch the display interface, you’ll disrupt the flow of light in the area of your touch command.

Optical imaging touchscreens essentially work to detect touch commands by measuring disruptions in IR light. Of course, IR light is invisible to the naked eye, so you can’t see the IR light as it’s projected across the device’s display interface. Nonetheless, touching or tapping the display interface will block some of the IR, allowing the optical imaging touchscreen to identify the location of your touch command.

Benefits of Optical Imaging Touchscreens

Unlike capacitive smartphones, optical imaging touchscreens support touch commands created by a stylus or gloved finger. As you may know, capacitive touchscreens only work with a bare finger. If you use a gloved finger or stylus, it won’t register your touch command. This is because capacitive touchscreens work using the principle of capacitance. They constantly measure the capacitance of the display interface, and if a capacitive touchscreen detects a reduction, it will register it as a touch command. Wearing gloves or using a stylus prevents the reduction of capacitance from happening, so the device won’t register any commands creating with a gloved finger or stylus.

Optical imaging touchscreens, on the other hand, support touch commands created by any object. Whether you use a bare finger, a gloved finger, a stylus or anything else, you can rest assured knowing the optical imaging touchscreen will read and register your command.

It’s also worth noting that optical imaging touchscreens are long-lasting. Their light-detecting mechanism minimizes stress and pressure placed on the device’s hardware, resulting in a longer lifespan than other types of touchscreen devices.