When researching the different technologies powering touchscreen devices, you may come across something called “optical imaging.” Granted, not every touchscreen device supports this feature, but it’s become increasingly popular in recent years nonetheless. So, what exactly is optical imaging and how does it work?
As explained by Wikipedia, optical imaging is a relatively new type of touchscreen technology that’s characterized by the use of two or more image sensors that use infrared lights to determine the point of touch. These sensors, which are typically placed around the edges and/or corners of the touchscreen device, are constantly scanning the environment for signs of distribution. When the user’s hand or finger disrupts the infrared light, it registers a touch. Optical imaging touchscreens are unique in this manner, as most other forms of touchscreen technology identify touch based on other methods.
Normally, touchscreen devices work by either using capacitive or resistive technology to determine the point of contact. With a capacitive touchscreen device, touch is identified by the operator’s electrical charge. Everyone produces a small electrical charge when they touch the screen, and capacitive touchscreen devices work by identifying this charge to determine the point of contact. Resistive touchscreen devices, on the other hand, work by pressing two layers together. The area in which the two layers meet is calculated as the point of contact.
Of course, this is in stark contrast to optical touchscreens, which work to identify the point of contact by using infrared lights. While there are dozens of different types of optical imaging touchscreens on the market, most feature a couple of back lights that are placed in the camera’s field of view. When the operator moves in front of these lights, it created distortion that the device picks up and uses to determine the point of contact.
So, what makes optical touchscreens such a popular choice? Well, it’s still in its early stages of development, but there’s a growing use towards this innovative new touchscreen techology and rightfully so: optical imaging opens the doors to a whole new world of possibilities for touchscreen devices. Instead of being limited to traditional screens, for instance, optical imaging allows for massive, oversized touchscreen interfaces. This makes it particularly useful in commercial settings, although this doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s only by businesses. On the contrary, there are several new consumer-grade optical touchscreens being introduce into the market.