If you’re looking to buy a new touchscreen device, you might be wondering which types of touchscreens support multi-touch. In recent years, more and more manufacturers have been implementing multi-touch functionality in their respective devices. You can now find multi-touch in tablet computers, smartphones, human machine interfaces (HMIs) and more. With that said, not all touchscreens support multi-touch.

What Is Multi-Touch?

Multi-touch is a feature in touchscreen devices that’s designed to support input commands performed using two or more points of simultaneous contact.

Most touch commands are performed using a single point of contact. To open an app, for example, you may tap or touch it with a finger. Multi-touch, however, is characterized by the use of two or more simultaneous points of contact. When you perform a touch command using two or more points of contact at the same time, it’s considered a multi-touch command.

A common example of multi-touch functionality is pinch to zoom. Most smartphones and tablets, for example, allow you to magnify the screen by pinching it with your fingers. You can zoom in by pinching the screen outwards, and you can zoom out by pinching the screen inwards. Pinch-to-zoom commands such as these require two simultaneous points of contact. As a result, they are considered multi-touch commands.

Origins of Multi-Touch

According to Wikipedia, multi-touch has origins dating back to the 1970s, during which researchers at CERN, MIT and Carnegie Mellon University began working on the technology. At the time, the technology was basic and rudimentary to say the least. It wasn’t until the turn of the 21st century when multi-touch devices were regularly produced and sold.

Mutual Capacitance Touchscreens

So, what touchscreen devices support multi-touch commands exactly? Some people assume that multi-touch is only supported by a single type of touchscreen device, but this isn’t necessarily true. There are actually several types of touchscreen devices that support multi-touch commands.

You can perform multi-touch commands on mutual capacitance touchscreens. A form of projected capacitance touch (PCT), mutual capacitance touchscreens feature a unique design. They are called “mutual capacitance touchscreens” because they leverage the properties of conductive objects in close proximity. When multiple conductive objects are close together, they will hold a charge. As a result, mutual capacitance touchscreens are able to detect two or more simultaneous points of contact, thereby making them multi-touch friendly.

In addition to mutual capacitance, resistive touchscreen devices can also support multi-touch commands. It’s important to note that not all resistive touchscreens support multi-touch commands. Some only support traditional single-contact commands.