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Opcuity: The Next Great Touchscreen Accessory?

Fri, 08/07/2009 - 6:14am
by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor

Jason_Pic130Capacitive sensing works on the premise that the human body conducts electricity. Thus, a capacitive touchscreen (such as an iPod or iPhone) will “sense” the human hand but not a stylus. However, the very characteristic that makes capacitive touchscreens unique is also its biggest disadvantage—fingers leave fingerprints. Uni-Pixel’s Opcuity Active Layer Films address that issue.

Opcuity came about through happenstance: while developing a display technology called “Time Multiplexed Optical Shutter” (TMOS), researchers at Uni-Pixel discovered that its nanostructure properties repelled fingerprints. According to ECN’s Alfred Poor, the structures “wick away the skin oils and spread them into an invisible thin layer on the surface of the film.” In other words, it’s fingerprint-resistant.

Uni-Pixel claims that their Opcuity film prevents “finger prints and other smudges while maintaining an optically clear view of the device display. The film also provides scratch protection, anti-glare and offers a silky smooth touch interface for device users’ fingers.” I’ve used a sample display on my iPhone for a week, and can speak to their claims. Opcuity’s main selling point is its fingerprint resistance; on that, it succeeds admirably. I can nary detect a fingerprint or smudge of any kind. Close examination reveals several minor scratches, but nothing noticeable during operation.

But Opcuity has its weaknesses. The film seems especially bubble-happy during application, especially compared to traditional screen protectors. And unlike contemporaries, Opcuity makes the screen darn-near impossible to see under direct sunlight. Neither problem is a showstopper, though.

Ultimately, I’d recommend Opcuity Active Layer Films. If and when Uni-Pixel does commercialize the item, it’ll provide good protection for your treasured multi-media device. Just don’t expect the film to perform miracles. 

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