Responsive touch: A tablet that touches back


"A smartphone, or a tablet computer, or a large-screen TV: We expect all of those devices to have touch interfaces," says Davis Rice.

Rice has added one more feature to his tablet. It touches him back.

"Each time I cross an album," he demonstrates, "I feel a tactile sensation."

On this tablet, you can feel the icons you push. When you drag a key to a lock, you feel the click as it opens.

On a demonstration screen, asphalt feels rough. You feel nothing up and down on this corduroy image, but feel ridges sideways. The sandpaper image doesn't quite feel like the sandpaper it is supposed to, but it is finer than the asphalt.

Touch feedback isn't all that new in dashboards and appliances. But, so far, you need to plug these devices into a wall -- or drain batteries like crazy -- because they create the sensation with physical vibration.

"They vibrate the entire device," adds Rice, "or the entire screen. Ours is done using electrostatic technology. So the entire screen is alive for very precisely located haptic effects."

It changes the electrical attraction between your finger and the glass. The secret is not really the tablet, which is one that's available to any consumer.

"We've repurposed a tablet from a manufacturer," Rice said.

It's what has been laid over the screen by Rice's company Senseg -- electrified glass so thin it's almost invisible. Because it doesn't vibrate, it doesn't use as much battery power, making it practical for mobile devices.

This is not an accessory; it needs to be incorporated by manufacturers. Still, Rice says there is no reason that all screens couldn't have touchback capability, as early as a year from now.



Senseg Tactile Feedback

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