It’s no secret that most touchscreen devices today use either resistive or capacitive touch-sensing technology. The former relies on pressure to identify touch, whereas the latter measures changes in capacitance to identify touch. While there’s no sign of either resistive or capacitive touchscreen technology fading anytime soon, companies are also exploring new solutions, including infrared.

An infrared touchscreen device emits infrared light across the interface, which is picked up by various sensors, typically located on the edges or corners. The infrared light is invisible to the naked eye. Because it contains sensors, however, the device can “see” the infrared light, which is uses to determine when and where the user touches. When you touch an infrared device, it disturbs the infrared light that’s being projected across the interface. The sensors pick up this disturbance, using this information to identify the precise point of contact.

So, what advantages does infrared touchscreen technology offer? When compared to other types of touchscreen technology, infrared typically offers the highest image clarity as well as light transmission. This makes it particularly beneficial when used to produce large touchscreen displays. However, the benefits of infrared touchscreen devices don’t end there. They also boast an exceptional level of strength and durability. An all-too-common problem faced by many touchscreen devices is the presence of scratches. Over time, a traditional resistive or capacitive touchscreen device may develop micro-sized scratches in the surface; thus, affecting its usability. Infrared touchscreen devices, on the other hand, are protected against scratches, fingerprints and other forms of minor damage.

Another benefit of infrared touchscreen technology is the simple fact that they can be used with a bare finger, gloved finger, stylus and more. In comparison, capacitive touchscreen devices only support the use of a bare finger or special capacitive stylus.

Of course, there are also disadvantages to using infrared touchscreen technology, such as erroneously triggered commands. If a foreign object comes into contact with the interface, it will block the infrared light just like your finger. And like your finger, the object will also trigger the command. Infrared devices also cost more than other touchscreen devices, which may deter some companies and individuals from buying them. Furthermore, they can be sensitive to water and moisture, as even small amounts of moisture may interfere with their operation. With all things considered, though, infrared offers a viable alternative to other types of touchscreen technology on the market.