We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message

New Haptic Feedback Tech Makes Touchscreens Poke Back

Adding vertical oscillations to a smartphone touchscreen could simulate depths, ridges, and textures.

Many current smartphones utilize some degree of haptic technology--that is, tech that stimulates a user's sense of touch to communicate information.  As of now, the haptic feedback systems are pretty basic: When you touch a "soft" key (one that appears on your touchscreen, as opposed to a key on a physical keyboard), the screen or even the entire phone will vibrate, simulating a click.  But using the research of Ed Colgate, mechanical engineering professor at Northwestern University, poking a touchscreen could soon make the touchscreen poke back.

His idea depends on changing the direction of the screen's vibration.  Right now, screens vibrate laterally, in the plane of the screen.  Colgate introduced vertical oscillations, so that the screen vibrates in and out--which will modulate the amount of contact between the finger and the screen, which will fool your finger into believing it's touching a texture completely different from that of coated glass.  Tiny lateral oscillations along with the vertical ones would stretch the finger's skin receptors in the same way that touching something with depth would, simulating the dips and hollows and ridges that appear on a physical keyboard.

Vincent Hayward, a researcher at the Institute of Intelligent Systems and Robotics at the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, was able to try out Colgate's prototype at a recent haptics conference in Turkey.  Of the prototype--currently just a piece of glass that vibrates with an amplitude of less than a micrometer--he says it feels "like the surface is coming to life under your fingers".  He and Colgate agree that there are no barriers to implementing the technology on a touchscreen.

The idea of simulating textures on a phone is captivating--think of what you could do with Angry Birds!  Not only that: we're closer than ever to realizing the dream of slapping someone through the Internet.

[via New Scientist]

Like this? You might also enjoy...

Get your GeekTech on: Twitter - Facebook - RSS | Tip us off

IDG UK Sites

Best camera phone of 2015: iPhone 6 Plus vs LG G4 vs Galaxy S6 vs One M9 vs Nexus 6

IDG UK Sites

In defence of BlackBerrys

IDG UK Sites

Why we should reserve judgement on Apple ditching Helvetica in OS X/iOS for the Apple Watch's San...

IDG UK Sites

Retina 3.3GHz iMac 27in preview: Apple cuts £400 of price of Retina iMac with new model