Tuesday, May 25, 2010

RPO Making Steady Progress

Tuesday May 24. RPO (booth 125) continues to make steady progress in evolving its Digital Waveguide Touch infrared touch-screen technology towards a mass-producible product. RPO launched its technology at SID in 2007, showed improved performance in 3.5-in. touch screens at SID in 2008, and showed larger sizes (7 in.) at SID in 2009. Now at SID in 2010, RPO is showing a 13.2-in. touch screen with a profile (bezel) height of only 0.5 mm and a border width of 3-5 mm. This is becoming quite competitive with other touch technologies.

RPO’s technology combines the “touch with anything” characteristic of resistive with the high optical performance of SAW, APR, and other “clear glass” touch technologies, with the added benefit of very high resolution that provides excellent inking and handwriting recognition. RPO is focused on touch screens between 5 and 20 inches, having discovered that the only significant market for 3.5-in. touch screens (smartphones) is relatively impenetrable by a small startup.

RPO is also showing a touch screen integrated with an e-Ink electrophoretic display, side-by-side with a resistive touch-screen. The difference in optical performance is immediately noticeable. The integration with e-Ink is unique in that the waveguides are on top of the screen while the light-spreading glass is mounted under the screen. The result is total freedom from any overlay, resulting in the best possible optical performance. Qualcomm (booth 331) is also displaying an RPO touch-screen integrated on top of their Mirasol reflective display. The clear-glass nature of RPO's touch screen is optimum for a reflective display, where ambient light must travel in both directions through the touch screen.

Another interesting variation being shown in RPO’s booth is a touch screen with no waveguides on the sides (and thus zero profile height on those edges), and waveguides only on the top and bottom. This touch screen could be used in specialized devices where finger or pen movement is constrained by the device design – e.g., the device might support only horizontal gestures.

RPO still can’t talk about its customer engagements, but company representatives assured me that they expect to be in full mass production with their first major customer by early 2011. -- Geoff Walker, NextWindow

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