An infrared (IR) touch screen is a screen with which one interacts by touching the screen's surface rather than by using an input object such as a mouse, and it operates with IR light. With an IR touch screen, there are many different IR light-emitting diodes (LEDs); when a finger or object changes the light pattern, the screen picks up the touch. Unlike some other touch screens, which need a conductor such as a finger, an IR touch screen can be activated with nearly any object. The glass screen of an IR screen does not need to be patterned, so these touch screens tend to have better durability and clarity when compared to other touch screens. These touch screens are seen on cash registers, some computers and medical devices.
With an IR touch screen, there is a photodetector and an array of IR LEDs that cover the entire screen. When the user touches the screen, the touch disrupts the LEDs, and both the screen and photodetector notice this disruption. By correlating the two factors, this touch screen knows exactly where the user touched and simulates a mouse click for that area. This enables users to open files and click buttons without a mouse, which is much more useful in some applications.
Most touch screen hardware requires a conductor such as a finger or apparatus, but the IR screen does not need this. The advantage is that anything can be used, so users do not need to purchase or maintain special equipment. If something falls or unexpectedly touches the screen, however, it will register that as a touch. This means a finger, plastic or metal stylus, pen cap or anything else can be used to operate the IR touch screen.
Many touch screen systems require glass with specialized patterns so the computer can recognize where the user is touching. An IR touch screen does not use this system, so the glass is same as with a regular screen. The advantage of this is that the glass usually lasts longer and has better optical quality. At the same time, these screens may sometimes incorrectly register a touch, because the touch interface is not as sophisticated.
IR touch screen hardware is seen most often on cash registers, some desktops and some medical devices. It also is used for some video games, but this is not very common. The reasons behind this touch screen’s wide use are low maintenance and ease of use.