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Touch sensitive switches

Touch sensitive switches have very low activation forces. As low as it is reasonably possible to get, short of gesture recognition, perhaps.

While not practical as keyswitches on an ordinary keyboard, they do have applications.

Touch sensitive light switches are widely available:

Touch sensitive light switch
Touch sensitive light switch
Touch sensitive light switch
Touch sensitive light switch

This particular switch needs a huge 47mm pattress box, and has extremely irritating dimmer functionality - which prevents it from working with compact fluorescent bulbs - but the switch fuctionality is of good quality.

This type of switch uses a charged surface and capacitance to detect contact. The degree of touch sensitivity in response to finger touches is very good.

It would be nice if this switch technology was available for computer input devices. It would be useful for infrequently-pressed switches.

However, there seem to be some issues:

  • This type of switch use a metal plate. Programmable keywitches with relegendable keycaps tend to have transparent surfaces, which tend not to conduct electricity;
  • These switches are hooked up to the mains. Sustaining their surface charge takes some power - around 100uA at 240V - and an implementation that draws power from USB and has more than a handful of switches may not yet be practical;
  • In practice, touch-sensitive key switches do not yet appear to be widely available.


Touch Mouse - Mouse operated by a touch switch

Tim Tyler | Contact |