Dear Mr. Abominable,
You are not alone in the cold my friend. First, this “iPad” type touch screen you are referring to is using projected capacitive (PCAP) technology. Without diving into detail, a “touch” is sensed when you make contact with the screen, basically grounding out the circuit. That’s right, no matter what anyone has said about your personality, make no mistake that you sir are electric. The problem in Antarctica isn’t so much the temperature, it’s the fact that you certainly do not want to take off your gloves in those temperatures. Now, quite a few companies manufacture “phone friendly” gloves with a little strip of conductive material woven on the pointer finger from the inside out to bridge the gap from finger to screen. Maybe I shop at the wrong places, but most of these gloves seem a little light for sub-zero death freeze. Since that may not be an option, some PCAP screens can be tuned to handle gloves – but again, it’s the thickness of the material separating man and machine that gets in the way and can result in an overly sensitive touch screen when the gloves come off.
I apologize for throwing my “sales guy” hat on in advance, but let’s switch gears and talk new technology. For this exact reason (ok there’s a few others) the mad scientists here at TI have developed a new technology that gives your freezing fingers the freedom to be covered in any glove you choose and still get the benefits of a multi-touch interface on whatever device you’re using. It’s called PCAP Plus. I don’t want to drill down too far, but what we’ve done is combine the best of resistive touch screen technology, with the features of PCAP (multi-touch, gesture, etc) and created “Frankenscreen.” Ok well I wanted to call it “Frankentouch” but they wouldn’t let me. Now there are far more benefits than just using gloves with this new technology, especially for the military, but for you and whatever device you may be trying to develop here – this is the technology for you.
While touch may be a pita while roaming the frozen tundra, I think you may be overlooking a potentially bigger problem – the display. LCD’s and I have a lot in common – we’re square and we don’t like the cold. The colder it gets, the longer it takes for your LCD to display an image, and the dimmer your image gets. If you dip to around or below -35 degrees C, you can have permanent display damage from the liquid crystal actually freezing. Fortunately, there is a solution around this problem. Transparent heaters (sometimes simply referred to as LCD heaters) are exactly what they sound like. We take a piece of glass, coat it in a conductive material (most commonly ITO) and then give it power. You can tweak the coating depending on how much power you need and how big of a display you have. The heater is then bonded to the LCD using a UV curable, optically clear adhesive. Finally, your touch screen is attached on top of that (most likely using the same adhesive), creating a sandwich of functional touch display goodness. This will keep your display nice and toasty while you freeze to death, giving you the “instant on” that I’ll be getting from my iPad in the comfort of my living room.
So, pioneer of the great frozen unknown, I hope I answered your question and then some. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have sudden urge to make hot cocoa and s’mores.
Cheers to the good life,