Atmel demonstrated their touch controller line for automotive and other applications at CES, which allows input with moisture / water present as well as using a glove or a stylus. These robust touch control systems are the next generations of input devices for our smartphones and tablets.
A new development also demonstrated the ability of a force sensitive touch panel that sits behind the display and measures the force of the touch. This is based on measuring the capacitance of a two layer film. Compressing this film changes the capacitance between an ITO and a copper layer. This can be measured and used to create a third dimension for user interaction. Besides a soft and a hard touch the system can sense many states in between.
Atmel showed an application where the touch pressure controlled the zoom function of a map. While this worked in principle, I am not convinced that this is a good application for the technology. It was very difficult to create the exact zoom level wanted, as the touch pressure seems not to be an intuitive way for the brain control zoom. However, I am sure that there are other applications that could very well benefit from such a solution.
Atmel also showed a touch panel for the automotive world with a curved touch surface. They call this the second generation of the advanced car (Avantcar concept). While this is still a prototype, they stated that the solution is based on a metal mesh conductive layer rather than ITO. They did not give any reasoning for this change in technology. (I would assume that the brittleness of ITO would be a potential problem in curving the touch surface – Man. Ed.) – NH