Touchscreen, now is the era for 3D touch
Due to its advantage where anyone can easily make input, touchscreen is a critical material that is used in various Smart electronic devices such as Smartphone, GPS device, ATM, and Kiosk. It is also being used in vehicle display along with the rapid popularization of electric vehicles.
The recent increase in the use of Smartphones and the flooding of various contents led to the demand for technology which transcends previous touch sensor technology which enabled easy manipulation of existing displays using physical contact. For example, Smartphone businesses are introducing innovative Smart sensor technology which utilizes technology that senses location as well as pressure in order to consider user sensitivity. Whereas previous technologies focused on ‘where’ the users touched, it has become a new trend for latest technologies in the Smartphone industry to recognize touch strength by considering ‘how strong’ the users press the screen.
[Figure 1. Structure of iPhone 3D touch panel. Source: Apple]?
Major trend in 3D touch, Apple vs. Huawei
On March 2015, Apple started equipping its new Apple Watch and Macbook products with pressure-recognition technology, followed by Huawei which introduced Smartphone with ‘Force Touch’ technology, bringing ‘pressure sensing’ as the new hot issue in touch panel.
[Figure 2. 3D touch function of iPhone 6s enables users to preview emails. Source-Apple]
The characteristics of Apple’s 3D touch sensor technology include preview and shortcut functions. Pressing photos in photo list with strength enables preview function. For hyperlink, pressing the text with strength loads preview of the loading screen. What used to require 3~4 touches was reduced to one motion. Also, pressing icon in display for a long time pops up frequently used menus, allowing users to run the menu that they want right away. Pressing just once enables faster and simpler tasks.
‘Force Touch’ technology shown in Mate S of Huawei is generally similar to ‘3D touch’ technology of Apple. Giving strong pressure zooms in photos and runs specific Apps. Moreover, Huawei introduced the technology for measuring weight by putting on object on Smartphone. Recently, it has been rumored that Google will utilize 3D touch technology for ‘Android N,’ and many other companies are planning to launch products with such functions, leading to expected increase in the size of 3D touch market.
[Figure 3. Weight sending function of Mate S. Source: Huawei]
Patent on 3D touch technology by Graphene Square
Registrations on patent of ‘Touch sensor which simultaneously detects pressure and location using graphene,’ possessed by Graphene Square were completed in Korea as well as in USA.
Graphene touch sensor applies graphene poles on X- and Y- axis that are formed in patterns on the device to enable multi-touch function. Producing electrode using graphene can prevent or minimize problems due to incorrect arrangement and can easily acquire uniformity and reproducibility of the product. Also, the excellent transparency and mechanical characteristics of graphene enables it to be used as a touch sensor which is flexible and stretchable. Therefore, graphene sensor can be utilized as stretchable 3D sensor.
[Figure 4. Roadmap on technology in touch industry, Source: Technological and industrial trend on ETRI touch sensor]
According to data announced by Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) in 2014, small-sized curved display will be used for cell phones in the future, and panels using module for 3D touch and space touch will be developed beginning in 2016. In fact, Samsung launched Galaxy s6 Edge with curved display in 2015, and Apple launched iPhone 6s with 3D touch technology.
For prospects afterwards, bendable/wearable touch sensor will be developed, rendering graphene to be an absolutely advantageous material for touch sensor technology. Also, whereas existing 3D touch sensor in iPhone recognizes pressure at a single point, using graphene mitigates such limitations, detecting forces that occur from multiple sites. Therefore, the 3D touch sensor technology of Graphene Square will go beyond mobile in the future and will be applied in multimodal pressure sensor (pressure sensing in various forms) which can innovate the wearable device industry.
Various areas for application of 3D touch sensor technology
The 3D touch sensing technology of Graphene Square can be used in various fields. User input mode can be diversified by applying it on 3D touch interface in mobile. Also, it can be used in virtual painting using 3D Stylus, using the device as input device for educators and professional designers. Also, games and educational software/Apps can be developed using 3D input method.
[Figure 5. Wearable Smart device. Source: urbanwearables.technology]
When using the technology for wearable devices, the detector can be attached on Smartwares to measure the angle and speed of muscular motion to send the data to fitness Apps for analysis. For example, it can be attached on bottom of shoes to measure and analyze the distribution of weight balance and body weight and send the data to mobile device in real time. 3D pressure sensor can also be linked with Apps for commercialization.
As such, 3D pressure technology provides comparative advantage in the competition for mobile device innovation. Also, development of interface which maximizes user experience can create new dimensions of wearable technology and business areas.
(SOURCE: Apple 3D, Force patent analysis report, INI R&C September 2015)
Patent registrations by Apple on technology related to 3D touch are showing an increasing trend beginning in 2011. This emphasizes the fact that 3D touch technology will play a key role in future devices including Smartphone. Developments of operating systems and applications using such technology will increase its value further. Global companies including Apple, Samsung, and LG are seeking ceaseless innovations, striving to develop 3D touch technology. Consequently, the patented 3D touch technology of Graphene Square will be considered with increased importance, with expected developments of wearable devices using the flexible characteristics of Graphene.
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