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21 June 2007

Zytronic’s Projected Capacitive Technology (PCT™) sensing is key enabler for ground-breaking interactive display at University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Zytronic has combined its ZYTOUCH® projected capacitive technology (PCT) with rear projection film, as the only solution capable of meeting all the requirements for a large, walk-around, permanent interactive exhibition at the University of Pittsburgh.

The Legacy Gallery exhibition has been created by Pittsburgh-based design solutions innovator ThoughtForm, Inc, and comprises large electronic displays as kiosks, 10-feet (3.05-metres) tall and 8-feet (2.44-metres) in diameter. Each of the two islands feature six outward-facing, curved, interactive displays that tell the story of the University’s 220-year history, its people, and its present-day activities, illustrated through text, still images and video.  One smaller, interactive touchscreen also forms part of the display, and enables look-up of hundreds more alumni, faculty, and students of distinction.

“I am delighted that we were able to help ThoughtForm achieve the amazing effects that mark out this exhibition,” says Mark Cambridge, Managing Director, Zytronic Displays Ltd.  “Our curved ZYTOUCH panels, on to which we have bonded rear projection film, have created a touch-sensitive electronic display with a high visual impact. Combined with ThoughtForm’s clear user-interface design, the result richly rewards visitor interaction.”

The styling of the islands draws architectural cues from the University’s heritage and the history of the Alumni Hall as a former Masonic temple.  Zytronic’s laminated-glass touchscreens with bonded rear projection film combine with classical cabinetry and brass metalwork to complete the effect. ZYTOUCH provided ThoughtForm designers the freedom to design large touch-sensitive graphical displays, curved to match the radius of the islands, and capable of showing bright, clear images using rear projection technology.

In combination with this design flexibility for the displays, Zytronic’s PCT was the only sufficiently robust touch technology compatible with the screen sizes and curvature visualized by ThoughtForm designers in the original concept.  “The displays had to be very washable, and damage-resistant,” says Tim Scanlon, Vice President of ThoughtForm, Inc. “We avoided other technologies that had vulnerable membranes on the front surface.”

Zytronic’s PCT sensing uses micro-fine capacitors embedded within the front panel of the display to detect when a user touches the screen and locate the position. Each capacitor is in the form of a wire which has a diameter of around one quarter that of a human hair.  The capacitors are connected to an integrated 2electronic controller board, which generates a signal at a particular frequency for each wire.  When a conducting stylus touches the glass surface of the sensor, a change in capacitance occurs.  This results in a measurable frequency change in the capacitors surrounding the contact point and the integrated controller then calculates the X-Y coordinate position and communicates this to the host controller.

The wires are invisible to the user and are well-protected against physical damage and everyday wear and tear.  PCT also offers high resistance to harsh solvents and cleaning materials and the drift-free operation of PCT also eliminates the need for periodic recalibration.

The exhibition is now open to the public including potential students and the university community, and contains nearly 200 profiles illustrated with over 1700 images. Visitors interact with the displays simply by touching the glass screens. ThoughtForm created custom software applications to manage the content and control the display, in addition to the physical design of the islands.

“ZYTOUCH proved invaluable in meeting our design goals, and enabled us to deliver a solution that closely matched our original concept,” adds Scanlon. “This is central to our mission at ThoughtForm, which is to operate at the forefront of the fast-moving commercial design community worldwide.”