University develops flexible touchscreen video display

Flexible video displays have been demonstrated before, as have touchscreen interface devices. However, researchers at U.C. Berkeley have combined the two to create a skin-like plastic display that responds to human touch.

The new display places a flexible skin that creates a grid of touch-sensitive sensors on an OLED video screen. The OLEDs are turned on locally where the surface is touched by fingers from the back side. The skin is made up of a polymer combined with a silicon wafer. When the polymer is removed, it creates the flexible touchscreen skin.

The film-like material can be laminated on just about anything — making touch-sensitive video displays available in areas never before possible. The new process is also said to be inexpensive to produce, using standard chip manufacturing techniques. It could be used in devices ranging from touch-sensitive video screening devices and computer interface controls to displays for devices like blood pressure monitors.

The university has invested considerable resources into multitouch interfaces, due to their potential value to a wide range of industries. Multitouch devices support all 10 fingers as input points, providing much more freedom and flexibility than a standard computer mouse. Studies have shown that the fastest multitouch interaction is about twice as fast as the mouse for selection. The direct-touch nature of multitouch accounts for 83 percent of the reduction in selection time.

Part of the university’s research is to determine how to design applications that leverage these benefits for professional content-creation tasks. The school has been working on multitouch input for a variety of production tasks at Pixar Animation Studios.

They have created Eden, a multitouch application for building virtual organic sets for computer-animated films. The experience of two set construction artists suggests that Eden outperforms Autodesk's popular Maya animation program (opens in new tab), a mouse and keyboard system currently used by video artists. Eden, the university said, demonstrates the viability of multitouch for improving real user workflows.