Disney Research has discovered a way for users to “feel” textures of objects on a touchscreen, through electrically shocking their fingertips.
Researchers for Disney in Pittsburgh, United States, have discovered a method that involves sending small vibrations through the display, tricking the fingers into believing they are touching a textured surface.
“Our brain perceives the 3D bump on a surface mostly from information that it receives via skin stretching,” said Ivan Poupyrev, head of the interaction research group.
“Therefore, if we can artificially stretch skin on a finger as it slides on the touch screen, the brain will be fooled into thinking an actual physical bump is on a touch screen even though the touch surface is completely smooth.”
Disney said the algorithm in question could easily be added to existing touchscreens.
“Touch interaction has become the standard for smartphones, tablets and even desktop computers, so designing algorithms that can convert the visual content into believable tactile sensations has immense potential for enriching the user experience,” Poupyrev said.
“We believe our algorithm will make it possible to render rich tactile information over visual content and that this will lead to new applications for tactile displays.”