Control, as easy as pressing a button

Bazile Peter

Author: Bazile Peter

Published 26th March 2020

Control, as easy as pressing a button

A fundamental issue with control surfaces in modern broadcast operations is that they are, for the most part, old fashioned.

The ease, responsiveness, and functionality of touchscreens, especially in Smartphones are now commonplace. Attributes that are largely absent from touchscreens are typically buttons, sliders, and dials found on many control devices associated with human machine interaction.

What’s more, even when control surfaces do attempt to replicate the look of mechanical controls in an LCD environment they still lack the familiar “feel” of those controls, which serve as reassurances that the right distance has been travelled, the correct force has been reached, or a dial has clicked comfortably into position.

But those are all tactile considerations, which I’ll come to in a moment. What everyone is equally overlooking is, well, being obscured.

What I mean is that when controls are included on an electronic control surface, a multi-viewer for example, they are arranged in a way that during normal operation are often hidden by the operator’s hand typically hovering over them. And they can’t be easily moved to a more logical position. It’s annoying, difficult, and sometimes impossible to push a button, turn a dial, or move a virtual slider that you can’t see, and even more annoying if you can’t feel it. Never underestimate the value of haptics (the perception of objects by touch).

Although some applications don’t really require tactile feedback, if you’re hovering over it with your hand, no matter how many flashy twinkly buttons you have, some of them are obscured and you have no idea where you are.

So, to overcome that aspect, Densitron is introducing a transparent, tactile object layer in its monitors that provides a sense of touch from selective virtual buttons, switches, levers, or dials to be projected onto the user’s fingertips. It’s essentially a slight, but perceptible extension of the control depicted on the screen and provides the same functionality of course, but the ability to make dynamic changes to the screen to position the controls in a way that is most comfortable and familiar – and feel like you’ve actually pressed a button, felt the reassuring resistance of a slider, or the click of a dial – is very reassuring. Current attempts at tactile components that are bonded to a touchscreen are woefully inadequate at providing a precision feel, primarily due to the torque parameter being inconsistent. Densitron has solved this problem with constant torque.

What many users currently cite as a major pain point of some control devices is that if one control fails in, for example, a 4x5 array of 20 buttons, the entire device has to be returned to the manufacturer for repair or replacement.

Of course, most devices have many more than 20 controls. But if a single one goes wrong, it goes back to a repair facility, which in turn creates unacceptable downtime or the need for complicated self repair.,

What Densitron is doing with mechanical buttons solves these problems. They are a translucent layer that sits on top of an LCD control surface. They are not, electro-mechanical controls, but with tactile feedback, they feel like one.

This subtle but tactile benefit will be available across Densitron’s range of monitors. It has been tested and trialled, and the results have been incorporated into the products.

The other advantage to the Densitron approach is that the essential menu icons – i.e. ones that are constant and are not going to be watched or necessarily be used all the time - can be fixed, and the remainder distributed however the user prefers with variations including size, position, and even individual menus. It all caters to individual preferences and working practices to help Densitron customers be very flexible and eliminate the current issue of not being able to see the key components of a display when they need to.

It’s as easy as pressing a button, without the button.

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