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: New tech aims to improve communication between dogs and humans

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

Method to reconstruct overt and covert speech

6 hours ago

Can scientists read the mind, picking up inner thoughts? Interesting research has emerged in that direction. According to a report from New Scientist, researchers discuss their findings in converting brain ...

Study says upgrading infrastructure could reduce flood damage

Oct 29, 2014

The severe flooding that devastated a wide swath of Colorado last year might have been less destructive if the bridges, roads and other infrastructure had been upgraded or modernized, according to a new study from the University ...

Walk through buildings from your own device

Oct 29, 2014

Would you like to visit The Frick Collection art museum in New York City but can't find the time? No problem. You can take a 3-D virtual tour that will make you feel like you are there, thanks to Yasutaka ...

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.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.