So, if you run your finger across your phone or tablet, what are you likely to feel? Right, pretty much nothing but a smooth surface. Almost all of our interactions with modern tech require a heavy visual component. As we can’t feel where we are on the screen, we need to see where we are on the screen. As our screens are made out of glass (and soon more will be made out of sapphire) it’s fairly unlikely we’ll be able to make morphing screens commercially viable any time soon.
What if we didn’t need to shape shift the screen though?
A team at Disney is working on a method of tactile feed back which works on vibration. We’re all used to very basic haptic feedback. You hit a key on your virtual keyboard and a tiny buzz from the vibrator in your phone let’s you know something has happened. These researchers are taking that to another level.
Scanning an image or a video, contours and edges are given values. As a finger is run across the image on the screen, those values correspond to more and less powerful vibrations. Those tiny pulses tied to image data essentially feed tactile info to our brains, and we think we’re touching actual edges, bumps, and contours.
This information can even be delivered in real time via a device with camera, allowing users to touch a live video feed. There are any number of potential applications from aid to the sight impaired, to improving feedback for touchscreens in automobiles, to adding new dimensions to video game play. It’s fascinating research.
Check out the video from Disney below. SCIENCE!