Owners of non-touchscreen laptops now have a way to add touchscreen functionality to new and existing Chromebooks and laptops via the AirBar, a device originally announced late last year and designed by Swedish-based Neonode.
The AirBar uses patented technology to emit an invisible light field that encompasses the laptop screen. The light field senses touch from fingers, gloves and even paintbrushes to give users an experience reported to be similar to that of a typical device with built-in touchscreen functionality.
The AirBar attaches to the bottom of the screen and is connected to the laptop via a USB cable. The company says that no software installation or additional configuration is required.
The announced availability of the AirBar also provided a bit more information about how it might compare to a regular touchscreen. Neonode said it can produce a touch accuracy of plus-or-minus 2 mm (.08 in) and duplicate almost 100 percent of what people typically do on a touchscreen with finger input.
One potential issue that Neonode also addressed is what happens if you're operating the device in outdoor or other situations where shadows might cause interference. Without providing specifics, the company said it uses a proprietary combination of optics and software to create a seamless user experience in those situations. So shadowing shouldn't be a problem.
The AirBar weighs a very light 55 g (1.9 oz), and the company has expanded the number of available sizes from its preorder phase to include those that fit 15.6-in, 14-in and 13-in screens. While the available device currently only works on new and existing Chromebooks and laptops running Windows 8.1 and Windows 10, an AirBar for use on Apple laptops is planned for some time in the future.
With Android apps now starting to roll out on Chromebooks, the device is timed perfectly to retrofit older versions of the affordable laptops to take advantage of the new functionality.
This is not the first device to give a standard screen touch capabilities. In 2014, Hong Kong-based Gowin Technology introduced the Zmartframe that gave monitors touchscreen capabilities or transformed them into a standalone Android touchscreen computer. But they have yet to go to market after completing an Indiegogo campaign that did not reach its fundraising goals.
The AirBar is now being sold online for US$69 on the AirBar website and is expected to be sold at Amazon, BestBuy, Dell, Newegg and Wal-Mart.
Take a look at the video below to see how the AirBar works.