Touchscreen overlays are becoming more and more common. You can now find them on TVs, computer monitors and other display devices. Even if a display device doesn’t feature native support for touch commands, you may still be able to control it via touch by investing in a touchscreen overlay. So, what is a touchscreen overlay exactly, and how do they work?

Touchscreen Overlays Explained

Some touchscreen devices are designed with an overlay layer, but this isn’t necessarily the same as an actual touchscreen overlay. Overlay layers are included in the touchscreen device’s design, consisting of a glass or flexible plastic layer that’s attached over the surface of the device. A touchscreen overlay, on the other hand, is a separate accessory that’s installed over the surface of a display device to provide it with touchscreen functionality.

The Basics of Touchscreen Overlays

The primary purpose of a touchscreen overlay is to transform a display device — computer monitor, TV, human machine interface (HMI), etc. — with touchscreen functionality. Some display devices are designed with native support for touch-based input. Others, however, lack this support. But even if a display device doesn’t support touch-based input, you may be able to add this feature to the device using a touchscreen overlay. The overlay is installed over the device’s display, at which point it allows you to control the device using touch commands.

There are different types of technologies powering touchscreen overlays, the most common of which is infrared (IR). With an IR overlay, light is emitting across the surface, and there are sensors or cameras present to detect disruptions in this light. When you touch the surface, you’ll disrupt the flow of light, allowing the overlay to pinpoint the location of your touch command.

Pros and Cons of Touchscreen Overlays

The greatest benefit of touchscreen overlays is its ability to easily add touchscreen functionality to display devices lacking such functionality. Once the overlay is installed and connected to the device, you’ll be able to control the device using touch commands.

Touchscreen overlays are also relatively inexpensive, making them a popular choice for business owners looking to upgrade a large quantity of display devices with touchscreen functionality.

On the other hand, touchscreen overlays don’t offer the same accuracy, responsiveness and overall quality as touchscreen devices with native support for touch-based input. Most touchscreen overlays are less accurate and respond more slowly than actual touchscreen devices.