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Touching the beyond; Can Zombies use touchscreens?

10 October 2018

Here at Zytronic we like to keep a watch out for interesting “touch” stories from around, recently we stumbled upon a novel use for touch sensors in as digital interactive tombstones.

These futuristic gravestones show pictures and videos, as well as other digital content. It’s an interesting concept to use digital content to celebrate the life of deceased person, and certainly one of the most “interesting” applications we’ve seen.

And the idea got us thinking……could a Zombie use a touchscreen? Yes, we know zombies aren’t “technically” real, but the question is intruding (to us). So here goes, lets delve into fantasy.

In order to answer this, it’s important to understand how a “touch” is registered on touch sensors.

Resistive touch

This is a method of touch detection using two flexible substrates with a resistive material separated by an air gap. When a user touches the screen, the pressure of their finger forces the two substrates together, creating contact between the resistive layers, registering as a touch.

The technology works with any object including a stylus, so there’s a very good chance that the undead would indeed be able to use this type of technology. On the downside, resistive technology is very susceptible to damage from scratching, and we feel that perhaps zombies probably wouldn’t have the gentlest of touches, and the constant scratching would damage the screen and eventually lead to failure. So probably not the best choice.

Surface capacitive

Surface Capacitive touch technology is created by applying a very thin layer of ITO (indium Tin Oxide), or another type of transparent conductive material to a glass substrate, and a small electrical charge is applied to the conductive layer.

Touches are registered when a finger, or conductive stylus touches the surface of the sensor and some of the electrical charge is transferred away from the screen to the user. The touch controller then registers the decreasing in charge and can pinpoint the touch coordinates.

But can capacitive screens register a zombie’s touch? Unlikely. It could be argued that without a heartbeat, zombies don’t produce any electrical impulses in their bodies, and the charge from the touch screen would not be able to transfer to their body. Also, capacitive touch sensors will be at a major disadvantage in the apocalypse, as the operation is affected by damage to the screen and liquids on the surface, and as we all know zombies don’t wash their hands and would likely contaminate a touch screen.

Protective Capacitive technology

Zytronic’s own “brand” of touch technology is created by laminating a near invisible matrix of conductive wire to the rear of a glass substrate. Touch is detected when a finger, or stylus touches the glass, and the human bodies own natural “capacitance” or electrical charge disrupts the electrical charge of the sensor, and the touch controller registers the touch.

On the positive side, Zytronic’s projective capacitive sensors are certainly tough enough to survive the daily wear and tear of apocalyptic life. The sensors are resistant to scratches, and impact damage. They aren’t affected by surface contaminants, or liquids, and can even handle multi-user functionality. But will they be usable by the dead?

Sadly not. As protective capacitive sensors require either a stylus or “living” body with natural capacitance (ie a heartbeat and electrical impulses), its unlikely that a zombie would register as a touch ☹

While this is disappointing, the durable nature of the tech does mean that any survivors in this dystopian apocalypse can look forward to fully functional Zytronic touch sensors, so we’ll take this as a win!