We’d assume at this point that every smartphone user knows that their touchscreen is one of the nastiest devices they own. The surface of a touchscreen can be packed with viruses and bacteria that have the potential to make people sick. This is a particularly significant issue in the current world climate with the coronavirus pandemic leading to illnesses that could potentially kill people.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge have been working on a new type of touchscreen that doesn’t have to be touched. It’s called the “no-touch touchscreen” and was developed specifically for use in cars. Researchers believe that it could have widespread applications in the post-COVID-19 world thanks to its ability to reduce the risk pathogen transmission from the surface of devices. The patent behind the technology is known as “predictive touch” and was developed as part of research collaboration with Jaguar Land Rover.
The researchers say that more and more vehicles have touchscreen technology inside today for controlling entertainment, navigation, or temperature. One challenge is that users can often miss touching the correct item due to acceleration or vibration from roads. Missing the action, they are trying to complete often means that their attention is taken off the road.
Predictive touch technology allows the user to hover over the selection they want to make, and the choice is made. In lab tests using driving simulators and in road-based trials, the predictive touch technology was able to reduce interaction effort and time by up to 50%. The time reduction is due to the ability to predict the user’s intended target with high accuracy early in the pointing task.
Researchers say that the technology could be incorporated into smartphones and would be useful while walking or jogging. The tech also works well for people who suffer from various conditions that cause tremors or sudden hand jerks, such as Parkinson’s disease or cerebral palsy. It’s unclear when the technology might come to the commercial market.