Touch Takes Off at Display Week 2010

Due to the large number of touch-related symposium papers and exhibitors at last year's Display Week, the Society for Information Display has inaugurated sessions devoted exclusively to touch technology in 2010. The sessions are: Touch Technology Development, Multi-Touch Systems and Developments, and Display-Embedded Touch Solutions. There is also a touch poster session with nine presentations.

by Jenny Donelan

INTEREST in touch-interface technology has skyrocketed during the last 2 years at Display Week. In 2009, 54 exhibitors were on-hand to show touch screens, controllers, or other touch-related products and services, (representing more than 25% of total exhibitors at the show). Prior to 2009, the number of touch papers submitted each year could be counted on the fingers of one hand. In 2009, there were 161 papers and in 2010 there will be 21 (including posters). All this activity is a bit akin to a gold rush, in that there's money to be made and lots of people are after it – if only they can find the right spot (i.e., the best solutions or killer application). At this time, these solutions, including iterations of technologies, such as resistive, capacitive, acoustic wave, and more, are numerous and, in the end, some will undoubtedly achieve more traction than others. Practically everyone involved in touch technology can find something promising this year at Display Week 2010, which will be a fascinating stage on which many of these companies and technologies play out.

"There is incredible interest and expansion in the touch market right now," says Bob Senior, an Executive Vice President with Noise Limit and SID Program Vice Chair for Touch. But why now? Touch has, after all, been around about as long as there have been personal computers; even multi-touch is about a quarter-century old. While the technology has been used for many years in applications such as banking ATMs and educational platforms, it was not as much of a draw for personal computers and other devices until a couple of recent commercial implementations took hold. One is obviously Apple's iPhone (see Fig. 1) and other portable devices that use multi-touch. Another is Microsoft's support for multi-finger touch in the user interface for Windows 7, as well as its Surface computing. Senior also cites Hewlett Packard's Touch-Smart technology, incorporated in its line of TouchSmart PCs, as a factor in raising the general awareness of touch.

Clearly, consumers want touch and manufacturers want to provide it. The attachment rate, or percentage of devices that ship with touch, has multiplied greatly over the last couple of years, according to Senior. One of the ongoing challenges for this technology, however, is finding a solution that works across the widest possible range of display devices. "There is no silver bullet technology," says Senior. Accordingly, Display Week 2010 will be the ideal venue to examine the evolution and potential of the different currently available technologies.



Fig.1: The use of multi-touch in the iPhone fired the public imagination and helped bring about general acceptance of the multi-touch interface. Image courtesy AT&T.


A Touching Story

Starting off the touch sessions will be a de facto keynote session, an invited paper from Microsoft Research's Bill Buxton. His presentation, "A Touching Story: A Personal Perspective on the History of Touch Interfaces Past and Future" will provide an excellent overview of the factors leading up to today's touch revolution and will include a sub-theme on the nature of innovation itself. Buxton's paper will trace the long (40-plus years) history of touch, including the story behind the "pinch-gesture" used to scale photographs,etc., which was first demonstrated in 1983. He will report on touch screens that began to be developed in the second half of the 1960s, with early work being done by IBM, the University of Illinois, and in Ottawa, Canada. As he discusses solutions that were discovered decades ago, but have only come to the forefront now, he will explain that such a lengthy incubation time for the development of new technology is not at all unusual.

Multi-Touch and Embedded Themes

In terms of themes for submitted papers, both multi-touch and embedded touch were strong R&D subjects this year. Accordingly, each has a session dedicated to it. Multi-touch is "hot," of course, and embedded or "in-cell" touch – incorporating the touch into the display itself rather than as an overlay – "that's the nirvana of touch," says Senior. In-cell touch will enable designs that are more elegant – and less expensive. For more about in-cell technology, see "LCD In-Cell Touch" in this issue. The multi-touch session includes the invited papers, "What Multi-Touch Is All About," by Jeff Han from Perceptive Pixel, and "In-Cell Embedded Touch-Screen Technology for Large-Sized LCD Applications" by Seiki Takahasi from Samsung. The embedded session has six papers, including "Novel LCD with a Sensing Backlight" by Kwonju Yi from Samsung Electronics and "Embedded Si-Based Photonic Sensor in TFT-LCD Technology Integrated as a Multi-Function Touch-Input Display" by An-Thung Cho from AU Optronics Corp.

Although Display Week 2010's technical symposium is rich with offerings in many areas, attendees should be sure to attend at least a few of the touch sessions because the year to come will undoubtedly be a pivotal one for touch. The featured papers will describe not only where the technology is headed, but where it came from, and how certain types of touch solutions may rise to the top over the next few years.


1G. Walker, "Display Week 2009 Review: Touch Technology," Information Display (August 2009). •


Jenny Donelan is the Managing Editor of Information Display magazine.