Touch Screen Enhances iMac Kiosks

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Apple's iMac, in addition to being a popular consumer computer, is also ideally suited to be an information kiosk. The iMac's look makes for an attractive kiosk display, the all-in-one design simplifies maintenance, and the Mac's legendary ease of use reduces navigation hassles for novice users. But what about that keyboard and mouse?

The most usable kiosks don't make you peck at a keyboard; instead, you make your selections by touching items on the computer screen. Three companies–Elo TouchSystems (800/356-8682, ), MicroTouch (800/642-7686, ), and Troll Touch (661/257-1160, )–offer touch-screen systems for the iMac. In most cases, you buy the iMacs from the vendors with the touch-screen technology preinstalled.

The iMac touch screens use one of two technologies: capacitive or resistive. A capacitive touch screen distributes low-voltage current over the display area; when you touch the screen, your finger draws current and the controller detects the position. A resistive system detects finger pressure to determine coordinates.

Elo has developed a capacitive technology called iTouch that lets you make selections by touching the monitor glass directly. The modified iMacs carry the full Apple warranty. However, like other iMac touch-screen products, the system uses one of the two USB ports, leaving you with a single connection. Elo also offers touch-screen CRTs and LCDs for Power Mac G3 systems.

MicroTouch's TouchStation also uses capacitive technology, but with a thin overlay. The company has been demonstrating its systems with Kiosk Communicator, a $495 authoring tool from First Wave (888/221-5498, ). An iMac with TouchStation costs $2,085 and carries Apple's standard warranty.

Troll Touch's TouchStar uses resistive technology. The system is available in a $795 internal version, which the manufacturer installs, or external $565 and $595 versions, which you can install yourself. Troll Touch also sells iMacs with the touch screen preinstalled for $1,995, and offers a $495 touch screen for Apple's new iBook.

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