Soon we won’t have to worry about getting infected by a dirty touch screen!
As the coronavirus pandemic persists, we’re beginning to face a new normal where we all stay two meters (or six feet) apart, avoid touching things, and avoid crowded places. That means adjustments to modern amenities have had to be made, like turning movie theaters into drive-ins, going digital with popular events, and making travel accessible from home.
One new method that restaurants, libraries, doctors’ offices, and many other public places may soon use to combat coronavirus is exchanging physical touch screens for holographic ones. You know, like the kind you’d see in sci-fi films? They hover in the air and respond to your touch, so you can swipe and tap to operate the “screen”.
The new Air Touch Panel, developed by Hakuhodo Product’s, Inc. may not be quite as fancy or advanced as what Tom Cruise used in Minority Report, but it’s still a pretty cool piece of technology. It makes use of the Parity Mirror 300, a special panel produced by Japanese company Parity Innovations that uses geometrical optics to form an image of light beams in the air. However, instead of being holographic or faintly translucent, the Air Touch Panel’s air screen looks solid from any angle and at any distance. A motion sensor in the machine tracks the movement of your hands and fingers, or even a touch pen, and a small-scale computer processes the movement and operates the screen.
▼ The anatomy of the Air Touch Panel: 1) special image-forming panel; 2) motion sensor; 3) video monitor; 4) small PC. The blue rectangle is the floating touch panel.
In Japan, touch screens are used for everything: bank ATMs, ordering at restaurants, check-in kiosks, convenience store cash registers, buying train tickets…Everywhere you look, there’s a touch screen being used for something. Hakuhodo Product’s had originally been working on a floating touch screen for entertainment purposes, but when the pandemic broke out and a need for “contactless” solutions to touch screens became apparent, they started to work towards adapting it for commercial use, and strove to make it more accessible for businesses.
The hope is that the Air Touch Panels will help prevent the spread of the virus. By allowing users to operate the “screen” in the air, without touching any surfaces, it could reduce the risk of infection through physical contact. It also has the added bonus of helping to reduce the extra labor that has been placed on many workers since the start of the pandemic, as it won’t be necessary to frequently sanitize the screen.
Hakuhodo Products started offering the Air Touch Panel to businesses on July 8, so you might start seeing them around Japan in the near future. This is a pretty neat feat of technology, and it’s something that we’ve been waiting to see in the real world for a long time, so we’re excited to see it in action! Hopefully it really will help prevent any further spread of this terrible virus.