Beyond Touch – Displays That Touch Back

Developers of interactive displays continue to devise new means to offer more immersive user experiences. Recent company efforts and patent filings reveal a good deal of interest in providing the users of mobile devices with more interactive user interfaces. For example, US patent application 2012/0105333 published May 3, 2012 filed by Apple describes a pixelated multilayered haptic feedback system. The haptic feedback system can be overlaid on a display to provide a touch sensing user interface that delivers tactile interaction with the user’s finger in contact with the device (see figures below).

Some relatively simple forms of haptic feedback have become common in mobile devices including smartphones, tablets and media players.  For example, my smartphone offers a setting for selecting haptic feedback to be provided in the form of a vibration of the device when pressing soft keys and on certain user interface interactions.  The Apple patent filing addresses the needs of touch sensor display users who complain of the lack of tactile feedback when operating touch screen interfaces in tasks such as typing or “pressing” buttons or keys

Several other firms, notably Tactus, Senseg, Artificial Muscle and Disney Research, are also addressing opportunities to combine advanced haptic feedback with touch displays in mobile devices.  The video below from the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show illustrates haptic product developments intended for touch interface devices.

Researchers at Disney Research in conjunction with the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University are exploring tactile feedback based on electrovibration as described in the following video.

Current mobile devices including smartphones and tablets offer consumers popular and effective means to interact with their devices.  What is perhaps not yet clear is whether consumers will widely embrace further haptic feedback features in their mobile devices.  Regardless, researchers, inventors and product developers are marching on seeking the next insanely great thing.


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