LAS VEGAS - If your laptop doesn't have a touchscreen, you don't need to replace your whole computer to get the functionality. At CES, Neonode showed off the AirBar, a $49 peripheral that connects to a USB port and gives any display touch capability. The company plans to ship the AirBar in May.
Airbar is unobtrusive and fits just under the display. It's a thin, black rectangle that rests on the bezel underneath the screen - if you have a black or gray laptop, you may not even realize that it's there. It uses invisible light to detect where your finger is on the screen and provide that feedback to the computer.
Neonode says that the AirBar will work with laptops running Windows or Chrome OS. The AirBar will come in four sizes to support most displays: 11.6 inches, 13.3 inches, 14 inches and 15.6 inches. Representatives told me that all of the sizes will retail for the same price.
The device is plug and play - plug the AirBar into a USB port, align it on the screen, and you're ready to touch. In a painting demo, it tracked my finger accurately as I drew on the display of a laptop without traditional touchscreen capabilities. When I tried using Windows, I was able to scroll effortlessly. Some drivers, like clicking, weren't ready for the CES demo, but representatives assured me that they will be available before launch. Besides using my finger, I was also shown demonstrations with other objects, including a paintbrush and a chopstick.
I can see the AirBar breathing life into some old laptops by providing them with new functionality.