A touchscreen you can really feel
November 17, 2011
A new user interface with tactile surfaces — users can feel actual raised keys under their fingertips — has been developed by researchers at the Integrated Actuators Laboratory (LAI) of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).
The technology could be used to enrich online texts, drawing the reader’s attention to certain elements on the page, or to make video games even more entertaining, by adding an additional sensory dimension. And for the visually impaired, it could open up access to smartphones and other electronic devices.
To obtain this tactile effect, the scientists used a piezoelectric material that vibrates when a voltage is applied to it. These vibrations create a very thin layer of air between the surface and a user’s finger, giving him or her the feeling that there’s something raised underneath it.