Bored with 3D yet? Not real enough for you? Well, someday you may be able to touch your phone or tablet and actually feel what your screen is showing you.
Disney’s Research lab reasoned that when we touch an object, the differences we sense in elevation, surface material, and texture are all the result of friction between a surface and the sensors in our skin. This makes sense, as sensation is just the difference in reaction between the atoms that make up skin cells and the atoms that make up surface. Friction is basically when molecules (bunches of atom) “rub up” against each other by virtue of their fields of electrons. By changing the frictional forces between a finger and a touch screen, one would be able to simulate the sensation of texture.
But how do you change frictional forces? By taking advantage of the way skin detects differences and modifying the electron “surface.” Essentially, Disney tested and developed a touch screen that uses low voltage electricity and vibration to increase friction and simulate texture and elevation. To make this, they had to test these low level charges to determine how the human brain reacts to specific levels, and from there, they build a model that predicts what levels of charge will produce what texture effects.
While the video above demonstrates the technology, its tough to tell how well implemented the technology is or how much potential there is in their techniques without testing it out. They did run focus testing and the results are promising, but I can only hope this moves past a prototype stage. This technology is most exciting for the blind, as they have been consistently left behind by visual touch interfaces and little to no innovation for TTS (text to speech). I can only imagine that something like braille lettering would be quite easily to create. But I don’t want to get away from the ways this can improve technological experiences for everyone. We could be seeing improvements in digital learning, 3D modeling and design (3D printers: eat your heart out), user interface design, communication, interaction and collaboration. In a world dominated by touch interfaces, a new way to interact with a touch screen that’s this innovative could change everything.
Source: Disney Innovation Labs