A touchscreen you can really feel (w/ video)

Nov 16, 2011 By Sarah Perrin

(PhysOrg.com) -- Swiss researchers have invented a new generation of tactile surfaces with relief effects – users can feel actual raised keys under their fingers. This technology could have many applications, particularly in improving access to electronic media for the visually impaired.

Finally a true tactile surface! EPFL researchers have developed a way to control the texture of a screen so that the “feeling” of specific areas can be modified underneath a user’s fingertips. This technology, developed by EPFL’s Integrated Actuators Laboratory (LAI) in Neuchâtel, is being designed for smartphones, tablets, computers, and vending machines.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

“We’re adding the sense of touch to tactile surfaces,” says Christophe Winter, a PhD student in the LAI who is writing his thesis on the subject. “The term ‘touch screen’ that’s used to describe current technology is really a misnomer, because they only provide visual and auditory feedback.”

By adding another layer of information to devices, this invention will improve their usability and thus improve the user experience. For example, it could be used to enrich online texts, drawing the reader’s attention to certain elements on the page, or to make video games even more entertaining, by adding an additional sensory dimension. And for the visually impaired, it could truly open up access to smartphones and other electronic devices.

A layer of air

To obtain this relief effect, the scientists used a material that vibrates when a voltage is applied to it. These materials are described as “piezoelectric.” The material expands and then returns to its original shape very rapidly, all at the nanometer scale. “This movement generates micro-vibrations, whose intensity can be controlled mechanically,” explains LAI director Yves Perriard. These vibrations – whose amplitude is only about a micron, or one-hundredth of the thickness of a human hair – are themselves imperceptible to us. But they create a very thin layer of air between the surface and a user’s finger, giving him or her the feeling that there’s something raised underneath it.

Explore further: Desktop device to make key gun part goes on sale in US

Provided by Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne

5 /5 (2 votes)

Related Stories

New device puts vision impaired in the picture

Apr 28, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Visually impaired people may soon have greater access to graphical information thanks to a new device developed by Monash University’s Faculty of Information and Technology.

A new motor for the watch of tomorrow

Aug 04, 2011

An electromagnetic three-phase motor, invented by EPFL’s Integrated Actuators Laboratory, will enable the watchmaking industry to build watches that are three times more efficient and that can include ...

Augmented reality in an iPhone app

Jun 20, 2011

Imagine you’re in a museum, and you can point your iPhone camera to a painting or an object in an exhibit and instantly get additional information about what you’re looking at. This is what PixLive, ...

Recommended for you

Desktop device to make key gun part goes on sale in US

12 hours ago

The creator of the world's first 3D plastic handgun unveiled Wednesday his latest invention: a pre-programmed milling machine that enables anyone to easily make the core component of a semi-automatic rifle.

Minimally invasive surgery with hydraulic assistance

18 hours ago

Endoscopic surgery requires great manual dexterity on the part of the operating surgeon. Future endoscopic instruments equipped with a hydraulic control system will provide added support during minimally ...

Analyzing gold and steel – rapidly and precisely

20 hours ago

Optical emission spectrometers are widely used in the steel industry but the instruments currently employed are relatively large and bulky. A novel sensor makes it possible to significantly reduce their size ...

More efficient transformer materials

20 hours ago

Almost every electronic device contains a transformer. An important material used in their construction is electrical steel. Researchers have found a way to improve the performance of electrical steel and ...

Sensor network tracks down illegal bomb-making

20 hours ago

Terrorists can manufacture bombs with relative ease, few aids and easily accessible materials such as synthetic fertilizer. Not always do security forces succeed in preventing the attacks and tracking down ...

Miniature camera may reduce accidents

20 hours ago

Measuring only a few cubic millimeters, a new type of camera module might soon be integrated into future driver assistance systems to help car drivers facing critical situations. The little gadget can be ...

User comments : 4

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Isaacsname
5 / 5 (1) Nov 16, 2011
Yes, or instead of braille that needs to have fingertips scanned over it, there could instead be just a few keys that have a surface that can change topologies rapidly.

http://www.youtub...NTvWXdFU

It could simplify life for blind people, imo. I'm sure somebody's already invented it ;)
CHollman82
1.9 / 5 (9) Nov 16, 2011
NIPPLES!

Sorry, just imaging the implications this could have in pornography...
powerup1
1 / 5 (1) Nov 17, 2011
We are truly living in an age of wonders. :-D
Vendicar_Decarian
3 / 5 (2) Nov 17, 2011
One small step for tellidildonics, one giant leap for mankind.