Public touchscreens lose favour among COVID concerned consumers

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Research by haptics firm Ultraleap suggests people no longer want to use touchscreens in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

From cash machines to petrol pumps and supermarket check-outs, we all use touchscreens in our daily lives; even in the home.

Consumers on both sides of the Atlantic have raised concerns about touching public screens.

This includes those at self-service, supermarket checkouts, health centres and public transport ticketing kiosks; as they look forward to a world post-lockdown.

Touchscreens ‘unhygienic’

Research by the natural user interface company in late April and early May, found that among 538 respondents, split almost 50:50 between the United States and the United Kingdom, just 12% believed that touchscreens in public spaces are hygienic.

More than 82% on average were confident that touchless interfaces would be more hygienic and give them better protection.

Touchless tech preferred

Touchless gesture-based interfaces are clearly preferred as a future option over touchscreens, counter service, or mobile apps,” said Steve Cliffe, president and CEO of Ultraleap.

“Consumers state that the number one drawback of public touchscreens is that they are unhygienic. The single greatest benefit of “contactless” is that it’s touch-free. So we believe gesture control technologies will play a significant role in restoring consumer confidence in retail and other public environments in a post-COVID-19 world.”

Consumers said they expected to interact with touchless technologies, such as gesture interfaces, in the future.

Restaurant diners on both sides of the Atlantic said they’d prefer touchless gesture ordering to making orders across a counter; mobile apps, with public touchscreens the least preferred.

Dangerous bacteria

In a 2016 study published in the American Journal of Infection Control, 100% of the 17 public grocery store touchscreens tested were found to have bacterial colonies on them. Moreover, 59% had dangerous bacteria, such as e-coli.

Of the 17 hospital-based touchscreens tested, all of them also had bacterial colonies.

Saurabh Gupta, Director of Out-of-Home Product at Ultraleap, said: “The average supermarket check-out touchscreen is used as often as 350 times a day by different consumers.”

“So it’s not hard to understand how easy it is for the screen to become contaminated; and also just how difficult it is to find time slots to properly clean them; and to keep them sanitised.”

“Consumers are telling us they are almost twice as likely to interact with touchless interfaces in the future.”