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Disney Develops Technology That Lets You Feel Textures On A Touchscreen

When someone mentions the word Disney the initial impression will most likely be animation and all those popular cartoon characters. The company however will soon become popular in the mobile market as well as it has developed a method that gives touchscreens a new level of interactivity. Disney Research has just created a way for people to feel textures on a touchscreen.


Imagine sliding your fingers on a Display and feeling the terrain of a map application. Better yet how about being able to physically feel the virtual keyboard on the touchscreen of your device? The technology definitely has a huge potential for use in many applications.

Disney says that the algorithm they have developed allows for tactile rendering of 3D features and textures. Varying the friction on a touchscreen as a person’s fingertips glide on it creates a perception of a 3D bump without physically altering the surface.

According to Ivan Poupyrev, who directs Disney research, “Our brain perceives the 3D bump on a surface mostly from information that        it receives via skin stretching. Therefore, if we can artificially stretch skin on a finger as it slides on the touchscreen, the brain will be fooled into thinking an actual physical bump is on a touchscreen even though the touch surface is completely smooth.”

The technology uses two methods to achieve its goal. One is the use of electrovibration which generates the electrostatic force that creates the friction. The other is an algorithm developed that creates the friction required based on the display on the screen.

Ali Israr, a research engineer at Disney Research, said that “The traditional approach to tactile feedback is to have a library of canned effects that are played back whenever a particular interaction occurs. This makes it difficult to create a tactile feedback for          dynamic visual content,  where the sizes       and orientation of features constantly change. With our    algorithm we do not have one or two effects, but a set of controls that make it possible to tune tactile effects to a            specific visual artifact on the fly.”

This technology will be presented at the ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology this October 8 to 11 in St. Andrews, Scotland.

via disneyresearch

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