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Zytronic’s touch sensors, which utilise the company’s Projected Capacitive Technology (PCT), have been integrated into a new educational tool unveiled by the Natural History Museum.

The company’s Zybrid sensors will provide touch interactivity to portable tablet computers developed by ruggedised display solutions provider Melford Electronics, for use by visitors to the Attenborough Studio in the museum’s new Darwin Centre.

The compact touch-enabled tablets are used to present a 45min-long interactive film entitled ‘Who do you think you really are?’, narrated by wildlife broadcaster Sir David Attenborough.

The film has been created, with assistance from the BBC, to help to bring the story of evolution to life.

Combining computer graphics with real life, it is possible for the audience to experience what it would be like to be in the same room as creatures that roamed the Earth millions of years ago.

A network of infrared beams spans the Darwin Centre’s studio.

These detect where the camera in each tablet is pointing, so that the position of animated CGI images is consistent for everybody present – resulting in a highly realistic effect.

Each tablet has a 16 x 10cm display that accommodates a full Qwerty touchscreen keyboard.

Users can rotate three-dimensional diagrams, scroll through detailed information and take part in quizzes/games, as well as entering data on specimens.

The proprietary PCT sensor technology, developed by Zytronic, is comprised of a matrix of micro-fine capacitors, embedded on the rear surface of a durable glass panel.

In contrast to many touch technologies, PCT-based touchscreens are practically invulnerable to the effects of environment or impact.

This allows reliable touch-screen interactivity to be deployed in the most extreme applications and devices designed for public use.

Additionally, the sensors can be designed in a range of sizes and form factors between 5 and 82in, including smooth-fronted designs made popular in the latest portable consumer electronic devices such as the iPad.

The Melford Electronics touch tablets were designed to be extremely light, weighing less than 1kg each, as many of the expected users will be children.

However, a heavy-duty construction was also essential, in order to avoid damage from rough treatment over time.

As a result, he custom-designed touch sensors designed and supplied by Zytronic to Melford Electronics have a front surface made from 2mm-thick chemically toughened glass.

As an important safety feature, the rear face of the screen is also laminated with an optically clear hard-coated polyester film that helps to hold the glass in place in the unlikely event of breakage.

Finally, an anti-glare film was applied on the front glass.

This offers added protection, as well as ensuring high levels of display clarity under a variety of lighting conditions.

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