Research puts finger on virtual iPhone button

Research puts finger on virtual iPhone button
( -- A virtual tactile keyboard could hold the key to making the iPhone easier to use.

The inclusion of a touchscreen keypad in place of a physical keyboard on the iPhone has enabled the manufacturer to incorporate a larger screen which means a better display of videos, web pages and games. However, without being able to feel when a button is selected users often experience a high level of errors, particularly when inputting text.

Now researchers are using tiny vibrations to imitate the feel of a button when a user touches the keypad. The user will be able to feel the edges of each key so will be able to identify where each key is without checking visually.

Researcher Eve Hoggan, from the University of Glasgow’s Department of Computing Science, said: “We found that, compared to a standard keyboard, touchscreen keypads were less accurate in terms of text input. Without being able to identify through touch when a key had been selected there was a significant increase in errors made. When in a rush it can be very time consuming to check each character has been entered correctly and is particularly difficult when travelling. Feedback through the finger is more natural and the brain can process it faster than visual feedback. By providing tactile feedback we will bring the iPhone keypad close to the performance of a real physical keyboard.”

As users run their fingers over the keypad a wave of vibration is triggered signifying a smooth rounded button. When the key is selected and released different vibration patterns give the user the feel of a key snapping back into place.

Co-researcher Malcolm Hall added: “The idea we have developed is very simple to apply because the vibration technology is already included in the iPhone. This technology is also not only restricted to the iPhone but can be applied to a range of other phones and electronic devices.”

The software can be trialled on the research team website: .

Provided by University of Glasgow

Explore further

PIN customers can avoid heat of thief's phone attachment

Citation: Research puts finger on virtual iPhone button (2008, July 22) retrieved 25 May 2019 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Jul 22, 2008
This is sacrilege! The IPhone is perfect!

Jul 22, 2008
I know Apple themselves are working on this, perhaps they found that it was currently to much of a drain on the existing battery technology used in current Iphone models to include at this point in time. Excellent work though IMO.

Jul 23, 2008
very nice!

I read it as implying this can be applied to existing iPhones. Very very nice!

Jul 28, 2008
If they made it an option you could turn on or off then the power wouldn't be as big of a problem because you would be using the vibration keyboard with the knowledge that it will drain the battery faster, or not use it and experience more typing errors so that you can have some extra hours before needing to recharge it.

I'm somewhat of a software engineer and I feel that a really good truism on this topic is "A new feature isn't a feature unless you can turn it off."

Jan 02, 2009
I found a better Virtual iPhone simulator:


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