A touchscreen is a device which allows users to control a personal computer by simply touching the display screen. This type of input is suitable for a large number of computing applications. Most PC systems use a touchscreen as easily as other input devices, such as trackballs or touchpads.
How Touchscreens Work
A touchscreen has 3 main components: a touch sensor, a controller, and a software driver. To make a complete touch input system, a touchscreen is combined with a display and a PC or other device.
This is a glass plate having a touch responsive surface. The sensor is positioned over a display screen, so that the responsive area of the plate covers the maximum viewable area of the video screen. There are a number of touch sensor technologies available in the market today, each using a different approach to detect touch input.
The controller used in a touchscreen is a small PC card that interconnects between the touch sensor and the PC. The controller takes data from the touch sensor and converts it into information that PC can understand. For integrated monitors, the controller is usually installed inside the monitor, or is placed in a plastic case for external touch add-ons.
The controller is useful to determine what type of interface/connection you will need on the PC. Integrated touch monitors are provided with an extra cable connection on the back for the touchscreen. Controllers are available by connecting to a Serial/COM port (PC) or to a USB port (PC or Macintosh).
The driver is software for the PC system that permits the touchscreen and computer to work together. It tells the operating system of the computer how to interpret the touch event information that is sent from the controller.
Today's touchscreen drivers are a mouse-emulation type driver. This makes touching the screen the same as clicking your mouse at the same location on the screen. This permits the touchscreen to work with existing software and provide new applications to be developed without the need for touchscreen-specific programming.
Some devices such as thin client terminals, DVD players, and specialized computer systems either do not use software drivers, or they have their own in-built drivers.
Uses of Touchscreens
Touchscreens are one of the simplest PC interfaces to use, making it the interface of choice for a large number of applications. The following are some of the uses of a touchscreen.
Tourism displays, trade show displays, information kiosks, and other electronic displays are used by many people who have little or no computing experience.
The touchscreen interface is easier to use than other input devices, especially for novice users. It is useful to make your information more easily accessible by allowing users to navigate your presentation by simply touching the display screen.
As input is present right on the screen, valuable counter space can be saved. Touchscreens can be used in order entry stations, cash registers, seating, reservation systems, and more.
Control and Automation Systems
Touchscreens are useful in systems ranging from industrial process control to home automation. Valuable workspace can be saved by integrating the input device with the display. In real-time, by simply touching the screen and with a graphical interface, operators can monitor and control complex operations.
It can also more useful to make learning more fun and interactive, which can lead to a more beneficial training experience for both students and educators.
When used with software such as on-screen keyboards or other assistive technology, they can help make computing resources more available to people who have difficulty using computers.