Ultra Violet (UV) rays have magical powers. At the right wavelength they can be used to disinfect surfaces. During a startup event in Syracuse, I saw a demo of the concept being used to cleanse door handles. It seemed cool and somehow I forgot about it till I came across a patent application filed by Microsoft.
If you thought finger smudges were the only issue when it came to touch screen computers, there is the cleanliness aspect as well. Knowing people who would spend 20 minutes wiping the keyboard and mouse in my school’s computer lab, I believe there are people who would love to have self-cleaning touch screen devices. Then there are hospitals and public systems like the automated teller machines. Microsoft’s patent application uses UV rays to sterilize the touch screens.
UV rays at a particular frequency can kill germs and the concept is known as Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI). Quoting parts of the Wikipedia article on the topic:
UVGI is a highly effective method of destroying microorganisms. It is used in a variety of applications, such as food, air and water purification. UVGI utilises the short wavelength of UV that is harmful to microorganisms. It is effective in destroying the nucleic acids in these organisms so that their DNA is disrupted by the UV radiation. This removes their reproductive capabilities and kills them.
According to the patent application, the concept is fairly simple. In addition to the backlight LEDs, the devices will now have UV LEDs too. The system will make use of proximity sensors to determine if a user is close to the system and deactivate the sterilization process. If not, the UV rays would be activated. The idea is simple and from the demo I saw on the concept, public touch screen based computing systems should use it. Image from the patent:
If Microsoft plans to let its OEM partners leverage Microsoft’s IP to make such self-cleaning tablet devices for hospitals, it’d be a great USP over the iPad and get Windows 8 based tablets through the door in enterprise.