Ultrasound Sensors: The New Face of Touchscreen Technology

Imagine this.

Your alarm goes.

You groan.

You roll over to turn it off. 

But there’s no alarm clock. 

In its place is a touchscreen

In fact, your entire bedside table is a touchscreen. 

You swipe across the touchscreen surface of your bedside table.

The alarm stops. 

This could be the future you wake up to. 

All thanks to ultrasound touchscreen technology – also known as Surface Acoustic Wave Technology. 

Everyday objects, like an alarm clock and a table, could transform into interactive touchscreens. 

It’s important to note that ultrasound technology is not a new invention, but it’s the first time it’s making headlines as the next big technology. 

How do ultrasound touchscreens work?

The ultrasound touchscreen sensors work by projecting ultrasound waves across the surface of the screen. 

When you touch the screen your finger interrupts the ultrasound waves by absorbing some of their energy. 

This interruption allows the controller chip to determine where precisely you touched the screen. 

What’s more impressive is that an ultrasound sensor is only 1.4 x 2.4 x 0.49 mm (the thickness of the tip of a ballpoint pen). 

What makes ultrasound touchscreen technology unique?

Ultrasound touchscreens are unique in two ways:

1. It works on virtually any surface, regardless of how thick the material is.

This is quite a technological advancement as it would allow thick materials like wood, metal, and ceramics to become touchscreens.

2. The technology’s accuracy means it works in the presence of moisture, oils, and dirt.

Implications on everyday life

Ultrasound touchscreens could change the world as we know it. 

Ultrasound’s unique abilities mean that touchscreens can now be used in industries where they were previously deemed impractical, such as construction and manufacturing.

For instance, in manufacturing touchscreens could be incorporated into machines without fear of them breaking as they wouldn’t be made of glass. 

Workers would be able to operate these touchscreens even if their hands were dirty or if they were wearing thick gloves. 

Ultrasound touchscreens could also be used for military equipment. 

Soldiers could be supplied with easy-to-use wrist-mounted touchscreen interfaces.

These ultrasound interfaces would work in any climate, which could provide a tactical advantage for whoever possesses them.

Ultrasound touchscreen technology could also affect how we use everyday devices. 

For instance, the future of the smartphone could look a bit like this: 

One afternoon you’re listening to music on your phone. 

Your favourite song comes on. 

You go to turn up the volume. 

Instead of pressing the volume-up button you simply touch the side of your phone.

In fact, your phone has no mechanical buttons to speak of.

In their place are ultrasound sensors. 

By installing these sensors in the back and sides of your phone, the whole of your phone has become interactive.

And phones are only one example.

The possibilities of this technology are endless. 

Advantages 

There are two advantages to ultrasound touchscreen technology: 

1. It’s less complex and easier to install.

One ultrasound sensor is the equivalent of one mechanical button, due to the fact that each sensor has its own processing power. 

Although this means that an ultrasound touchscreen will have to consist of multiple sensors, this is easier to install than a complex integrated system. 

2. It’s cost-effective. 

Thanks to its relative simplicity, ultrasound touchscreens could become as cost-effective as mechanical buttons. 

Cost was our last remaining excuse for picking buttons and keys over a touchscreen.

Now there is nothing stopping touchscreens from appearing more and more in our daily lives. 

The potential of ultrasound touchscreens

Ultrasound touchscreen technology could potentially shape the home of the future – a home filled with futuristic furniture. 

This is due to the suggestion that ultrasound touchscreens could be developed into a ‘frame’.

You would be able to place this ‘frame’ on any surface and thereby turn it into an interactive touchscreen that syncs with your other devices. 

In the blink of an eye, your coffee table could transform into a ‘smart table’, one that is synced with your smartphone. 

But why only limit it to your table or even the home?

If the ultrasound ‘frame’ can be placed anywhere, then pretty much anything can be made ‘smart’. 

Before you know it, you will be waking up to this world of ‘smart things’ – a world of the future.