+44 (0)1639 874 100 sales@blackboxav.co.uk

Museum Touchscreen Technology, What’s The Best?

Something we’re asked quite often over here at blackbox-av is “what’s the best type of touchscreen technology for use in a museum/heritage environment”, so we thought why not write a post that answers that question!

Feb 20, 2019 | Interpretive Insights

There are currently 4 main categories of touchscreen technology, Capacitive, Resistive, Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW) and Infrared. Although there’s a new kid on the block called Optical Imaging which is gaining in popularity but hasn’t really taken over the more conventional technologies yet, you should certainly watch this space though.

For now lets focus on the 4 well known options, each has its pros and cons and has also evolved over the years to keep up with changing technology.

Capacitive Technology

A capacitive touch screen is a control display that uses the conductive touch of a human finger or a specialized device for input.When a capacitive panel is touched, a small amount of charge is drawn to the point of contact, which becomes a functional capacitor.

The change in the electrostatic field is measured to find the location. In some designs, circuits located at each corner of the panel measure the charge and send the information to the controller for processing. In multi-touch screens, sensors are arranged in a grid to enable more complex input.

R

Pros

  • Great quality image due to fewer layers between the panel
  • Responds well to even a light touch
  • Multi-touch capable
  • Screens feel and look sleek
  • Not as affected by dust particles as other options
Q

Cons

  • Only works with fingers or conductive materials
  • Not ideal for outdoor use in cold weather (people wear gloves!)

Resistive

With resistive technology the main screen is covered with three layers. Two layers are placed over the screen and kept slightly apart, one is conductive and the other resistive, when the screen is touched these panels are pushed together registering the input. A scratch resistant surface completes the setup.

The best thing about resistive touchscreens is their ability to register inputs from any object, be it your finger, a pen or a gloved hand. They are also more accurate than other systems although more prone to damage and less responsive to a lighter touch.

R

Pros

  • Relatively Cheap
  • Responds to any input (stylus, finger, gloved finger etc.)
  • Great for handwriting recognition systems
  • Accurate & reliable
Q

Cons

  • Not ideal for multi-touch
  • Multiple layered panel means a lesser quality image, especially in well lit conditions
  • Vulnerable to damage
  • Older technology
  • Poor responsiveness to lighter touch

Infrared

When most people think of Infrared touchscreens they think of the classic 1980’s computers with orange/green text and a massive frame around the monitor, the fact is this technolgy still very much has a place in the modern world, it’s one of the more robust options and works by simply setting up a pattern of criss crossing infrared that when broken registers as an input.

There are a number of drawbacks to this technology however, for example bright lighting can interfere with the beams, as can dust and dirt. It’s most useful for applications outdoors where it can detect any input and not just a ‘conductor’ such as a finger (not in a glove!). However for the average indoor museum exhibit it’s a strong option.

R

Pros

  • Offers Multi-touch due to relatively new developments
  • No overlay required so provides great image quality
  • Can work with any object as input
  • Durable
Q

Cons

  • Can be expensive
  • Requires a bezel frame to house infrared
  • May require regular cleaning to ensure functionality
  • Bright lighting can possibly interfere with the system

Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW)

This technology utilises ultrasonic waves that are projected over the front panel, when the panel is touched some of these waves are absorbed and receivers register this change while controllers pinpoint where it happened.

If the panel is touched by a finger which then remains motionless, only the initial touch is registered, this can be a positive or negative depending upon the application, for example it can have an effect on the software used with the screen but makes it perfect for use as a workstation where objects are likely to be rested on the panel, such as a hand or elbow etc.

R

Pros

  • Clear glass panel used, no need for overlays
  • High clarity and durability due to single panel
  • Does not detect hard objects so makes a great workstation panel
  • Sensitive to gloved hands.
Q

Cons

  • Can not detect a motionless finger after the initial touch
  • May Need regular cleaning to ensure functionality
  • Relatively expensive compared to other options
  • Display screen can not be completely sealed

Sign up…

Sign up to our Newsletter below to receive news and exclusive insights.

 

So… What Touchscreen Technology Is Best
For Museum and Commercial Use?

And the winner is……

Until recently this could be a tough question to answer, due to technological restrictions and costs involved, the question of “which touchscreen technology is best for the public environment?” could have been answered in various ways, with the ultimate decision depending on a number of factors.

These days however thanks to technological innovations the answer is practically always Capacitive, there’s a reason almost all modern tablets and phones use this technology. On a larger scale this technology was once more expensive, so for touch tables you might have been tempted by another option such as Infrared however these days there’s not much in it. If you’re looking for a cost effective solution – we have a page on ideal multi-touch kiosks for both museums and heritage applications.

The only time you will want to use a technology other than Capacitive, is if your touchscreen needs to allow gloved use… for example a touchscreen kiosk installed in an arctic research base…

For this reason our extensive Touchscreen range consists of Capacitive touchscreens; 

All-in-one 22″ Touchscreen PC
The 22″ All-In-One Touchscreen/PC provides a simple yet elegant interactive platform for use within public displays. Contending with a separate PC and screen and all the associated cabling can be a thing of the past. This unit is easily installed via Vesa Mount fixings or the (removable) panel fixing wings which make it perfect for custom installations. Build it into practically any unique displays easily and quickly.
22″ Free-Standing Kiosk
Free Standing Multi-Touch Kiosks from blackbox-av combine uncompromising technical performance with outstanding design, elegance and style to provide stand-alone, finger controlled, multi touch interactivity and information to visitors on demand. This is the 22″ ‘Modern’ version in our Free-Standing Range.
32/42″ Free-Standing Kiosk
By combining precision touchscreen technology within a professional-grade large format LCD panel this kiosk is ideal for use in high traffic public access environments. Utilising Capacitive touch technology to ensure reliability throughout extended use, the screen supports up to 10 touches and gesture controls.
Sleek Multi-Touch Table 46/55″
Engage visitors with our elegant and ‘Sleek’ range of Multi-Touch table. Choose from a 46″ or 55″ multi-touch screen housed in an attractive white or black table unit. Thanks to the powerful inbuilt computer this system is able to run any windows 7 compatible multi-touch software including off-the-shelf solutions such as our very own Lightbox 3 Media Browser or any bespoke interactives developed for your chosen application.
Some of our touchscreens in action…
Checkout some of our recent projects that involved touchscreen technology.

The Great Stink

55″ ‘Sleek’ Multi-Touch Table & 32″ Multi-Touch Screens

Viridor Visitor Centre

Touchscreens and software

The Bugatti Trust

‘Modern’ 42″ Free-Standing Kiosk and software

Underfall Boatyard

22″ All-in-One Touchscreens and software

Garden Museum

22″ Multi-Touch Screens & 32″ Multi-Touch Screen
Lightbox 3
What use is a touchscreen without software to use with it? Which is why we not only supply cost effective hardware options, but have also developed Lightbox 3, our multi-purpose off-the-shelf interactive software package.

With this powerful system you’re able to create exciting touchscreen exhibits from your own audio and visual content.

Have any questions? Get in touch!