Not all touchscreen devices offer the same touch-sensing capabilities. Some are designed to recognize only a single touch command at any given time, while others can recognize multiple simultaneous touch commands. The latter, known as multi-touch sensing, has become increasingly popular in recent years. According to Wikipedia, multi-touch technology was invented by researchers at CERN, MIT and several esteemed universities in the 1970s. Since then, it’s become a fundamental feature found in smartphones, tablet computers, monitors, human machine interfaces (HMIs) and other touchscreen devices.

What Is Multi-Touch Sensing?

Multi-touch sensing is a feature in touchscreen devices that allows the device to recognize two or more simultaneous touch commands. Using these devices, you can press down on two areas of the interface at the same time and it will register them both as a valid touch command. This is in stark contrast to traditional touchscreen devices that only recognize a single touch command at any given time.

Benefits of Multi-Touch Sensing

Multi-touch sensing offers several benefits, one of which is support for additional commands. Even if you’re unfamiliar with the feature, you’ve probably used it before. On smartphones and tablets, for instance, you can pinch the screen with two fingers to zoom in or out. Pinching the screen inwards causes the display to zoom out, whereas pinching the screen outwards causes it to magnify by zooming out. This has become an essential feature found in touchscreen devices, as it allows users to easily zoom in our out of the display.

Multi-touch sensing also makes typing significantly faster and easier. As shown in the photo above, most touchscreen users type using two or more fingers. If a touchscreen device doesn’t support multi-touch sensing, however, you’ll only be able to use a single finger at any given time to type or perform other touch commands.

How Multi-Touch Sensing Works

You might be wondering how exactly multi-touch sensing works. Well, there are several different ways to implement this feature. One of the most common ways to create multi-touch sensing involves the use of capacitive technology. The touchscreen device creates a uniform electrostatic field across the surface of the interface. When a user touches the interface, with either one or more fingers, the device identifies the change of capacitance, thereby allowing it to identify the location of the user’s touch commands. Other touchscreen devices rely on pressure for multi-touch sensing. They feature a pressure-sensitive coating that changes when pressed.