What objects can you use to operate your touchscreen?

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Finger binary

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Following on from Faisal's "How do touchscreens work", we've started experimenting with different objects to see which of them work best, or at all, with touchscreen smartphones.

I mean, who wants to spend their time making a homemade stylus when you could have something just as good right in front of you? 

As outlined in the previous post, most phones are now equipped with capacitative touchscreens, so, for purely scientific purposes, we will be using my personal iPhone 4 for these tests.

Before we begin I would like to put you at ease. I got a B in biology, a C in chemistry and, unbelievably, a C in physics at GCSE, rest assured I'm practically a proper scientist. 

First up, the apple. Will a humble, healthy piece of fruit be able to control it's electronic counterpart? 

Yes, yes it can. Not extremely practical for trying to open apps or play games but it deals with the sliding unlock just fine. To be clear, we didn't bite the apple to match Apple's logo. That would be tasteless. 

Banana

Next up, the banana. 

Surprisingly this curvy yellow delight can operate the touchscreen peeled or unpeeled. However, unpeeled is best. That said, it does leave a certain amount of residue but it's cheaper than a stylus annnnnnnnnd its edible so swings and roundabouts.

Battery

Don't worry, the third thing we tried wasn't fruit, it was a battery. 

Obviously batteries can conduct electricity but the interesting thing about the battery is that only the negative side works on the touchscreen. There is obviously a reason for this, I just don't know it. 

Coin

Fourth, a coin.

A penny to be specific. Pennies used to be pretty much all copper, which is the second most conductive metal, behind silver. Unfortunately, nowadays only 0.6g of the penny, which weights 2.5g in total, is copper. So this didn't work. 

Crisp packet

The fifth thing we sampled, a crisp packet. 

Another thing that works. In fact, any aluminium based packaging should. It was a cheese and onion packet I used although I am almost 100% certain prawn cocktail would work just as well.......

Leaf

The penultimate object we tried was a leaf. 

Tricky to hold steady and cover enough surface area but it did work and that's the important thing here. Note to self and others: Don't use nettles. They sting.

Satsuma

Finally, a satsuma segment. 

Apologies to all those vegetables out there, we do like you as well but the satsuma segment was just the right size. We were even able to type out a whole text quickly, and with no mistakes.  

Well, I say the satsuma was the last thing we tried, it wasn't. We also used specially designed gloves that have metal fibres in the tips of the thumb and index finger but they weren't as fun. Nonetheless, they are clever and we highly recommend purchasing a pair but for those of you who, as of yet, don't have these gloves you now have a number of options to choose from if you get bored of your finger. 

Check out this video for a few short clips of some of the objects listed above in action:

We didn't include nose and tongue on this list because most people know they work and if you didn't I'd bet my house (if I owned one) on the fact that you've just tried it. 

Thorough, I think you'll agree. And most definitely not just things we found in the office....

If there is anything you would like us to try, feel free to leave a comment. Rude suggestions will most likely be deleted. 

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Scott published on February 6, 2012 10:28 AM.

How do touchscreens work? was the previous entry in this blog.

Top 10: Smartphone do's and don'ts of the office is the next entry in this blog.

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