Haptic Displays: Next Level Touch Screens

Haptic Displays: Next Level Touch Screens

Mike Tyson
Jul 8, 2011

Apple wowed the world when they introduced their revolutionary touch-based devices into the marketplace such as the iPhone and iPad. And many have quickly adopted the touch screen as the next big push in technology and digital interfaces. But what comes next and how to we progress? Some say it is with the invention of haptic touch screens which allow you to feel what you touch. Not so sure what that means? After the jump we'll break down what exactly this haptic screen technology entails and some of its possible applications in the future.

The word haptic has its origins from the Greek "haptesthai," which means "to touch." Touch interaction has been a difficult challenge in the computer sciences. But in recent years there have been some impressive strides in the field. It works by placing a sensor pad underneath the touch screen itself which will respond (vibrate) to your touch and create a sensation that you're touching something other than a screen. For instance, the sensor could emulate the feel of pressing a three dimensional button or various materials like wood, steel, plastic, etc..

This is an exciting innovation because now interacting with a flat touch screen will mean even more responsive feedback from the device to the user. Many people complain about the difficulty of typing on the iOS keyboard for example because the response is relatively minimal (a visual cue that you have pressed the key by making it appear larger as well as a clicking sound). But what if the next step would be the make the phone register a response to your finger as if you had just pressed and released a button? Well that exactly technology is available and its making its way into the consumer market place.

A main player in consumer-grade haptic technology is Immersion which outfits a multitude of devices from cell phones to medical equipment with the technology. They also provide a development platform called MOTIV for Android developers to help integrate haptic technologies. Not far behind, Apple has also applied for patents relating to haptic technologies in 2009 although there hasn't been much word as to when that would see the light of day (if ever). Samsung has even released a few haptic phones with limited capabilities. But the technology is still largely untapped and waiting for a major company to swoop in and really release a strikingly new approach to our interaction with digital technology which will hopefully help create a more realistic and intuitive experience for the user.

(Image: Flicker member VancityAllie licensed for use under Creative Commons.)

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