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Colegrove Updates on Touch

Jennifer Colegrove is from Touch Display Research and talked about touch and touchless input.

She started by talking about “what’s hot” in the market, including non-touch areas.

Colegrove said that she was one of the first analysts to look at the touch market, when it was around $2 billion in 2006, but she believes that it will grow to $36 billion in 2020. There are lots of touch technologies, but as we have heard many times, each type has advantages and disadvantages. Before 2009, resistive touch was the dominant technology. Now procap is the main technology because of the influence of Apple. There are more than 10 different ways of creating touch displays, some for practical reasons, but often they have been developed simply to avoid patents.

Colegrove went through the pros and cons of the different technologies and then changed to looking at the new trends in touch.

One trend is the replacement of ITO. ITO has a number of disadvantages, so there are many ITO replacements which Colegrove puts into six classes, although she has identified 200 companies that are developing alternatives to ITO.

  1. Metal Mesh. There are more than 20 companies that are providing “designed” metal mesh type films, including Atmel, Fujifilm, 3M, DNP and Sharp. Some metal mesh can arrange itself in a random pattern, which gets around some of the issues of moir√© that have caused some problems.
  2. Silver nanowire is doing well, with Cambrios being the clear leader in commercialisation of the technology.
  3. Carbon NanoTubes & Carbon NanoBuds (Canatu) are developing, but the problem for them is still conductivity on larger displays.
  4. Conductive polymers are an area that is getting quite a lot of research as it is appropriate for flexible display applications. However, there are still challenges in stability.
  5. As we heard on the first day, graphene is seeing a lot of interest and Colegrove said that more than 40 companies are trying to develop graphene-based touch systems.
  6. Other – Colegrove puts the Sante technology from Cima Nanotech into this category.

Like touch, she said, each material has pros and cons and there is no single solution that meets all the applications and needs at this time.

Turning to active pens, there is a big trend to allow the creation of electronic documents. There are active and passive pens and there are a number of advantages for writing, data collection and graphics by using a pen rather than a finger. Signatures are also a good application for pens.

Colegrove identified 14 different types of pen and she believes that the pen market will grow as we go forward.

Colegrove wrote a report that looked at touch use in nine different vertical applications including ATMs/financing, automobile, casino gaming, education and training. The demands in vertical market are very different from consumer electronics, with lifetimes of up to 15 years being required (for example in ATMs) and wide temperature operation.

The US, Taiwan and Japan have the most suppliers of vertical market touch solutions.

In the automobile market, there needs to be clear integration of the touch display with the software that is controlling the car’s systems. The first touch systems from Ford cost car buyers $1,000 in 2011. However, they complained that the system was too slow, so Ford changed to using procap technology, but now there are complaints about problems because the displays don’t support gloved operation.

The connected car is a big trend. At the moment, less than 10% of cars have built-in connectivity but that will change. Procap will be the dominant technology, but there are exceptions. BMW prefers wheel control while Ford likes voice because of problems with touch in the past. Display designers have to be careful because of the use of sunglasses in cars as this causes a problem with displays with birefringence.

Tesla put a large touch screen in its car and found that a big touch panel changes the drivers use of the screens. Car users start to use the display for a range of information purposes, way beyond the ideas that Tesla had when it included the screen.

Switching topics to touchless HMI, Colegrove said that there are 55 companies working on camera-based gesture and nine researching eye tracking. There are many drivers for non-touch display interaction.

Camera-based gesture control was given an extra boost by the commercial success of Microsoft’s Kinect technology. The first version was based on technology from PrimeSense, but Microsoft decided that it had learned enough about gestures not to need the firm, so they developed their second generation system themselves and Apple bought PrimeSense, so there is an expectation that Apple will start to exploit the technology in the future.

Eye tracking is an interesting application, and voice control can be efficient – it doesn’t take much space and can be fast in operation. The biggest challenge is accuracy in voice controls.

Non-touch interaction and gesture is also being used in non-display applications. Colegrove said that Mercedes has developed a boot (trunk) opener that can be released by moving a foot beneath the door, so that the door can be opened even if the hands are full.

Wireless NFC is a big potential application and some companies are even using brain waves to control systems.

For the pros and cons of each – see chart.

Finally Colegrove summarised her talk. She recommended more HMI interaction.