Researchers Bring the Touchscreen Off the Screen

Researchers Bring the Touchscreen Off the Screen

A new technological prototype developed by the University of Bristol adds physical feedback out of thin air.

Tony Stark holds the award for having one of the coolest computer interfaces ever created in the form of an array of 3D holographic projectors in his garage. The closest we have ever come to seeing this technology is arguably the Microsoft Kinect and its 3D camera mapping technology. But there is a distinct lack of physical feedback to the user when waving your arm around. The Escapist's own Yahtzee Crowshaw holds true that such methods of input are un-immersive and detract from the experience. That might be about to change with new research from the University of Bristol, where researchers have designed a touchscreen you can feel reacting to your input, without even touching it.

The prototype uses a new technology called "UltraHaptics." An array of tiny speakers, called "ultrasonic transducers," are used to generate ultrasound waves which create vibrations in the air with pin-point precision. These vibrations can then be felt at various distances and intensities above the device. The team then figured out a way to transmit these signals through a screen, creating an invisible layer of vibrations above it, allowing it to be used as a computer interface. Haptic feedback is something we have seen in many smart phones, the most common form being a button on the touchscreen generating a vibration as a response. Where existing technology is very limited in the feedback it can generate, this new technology is truly a breakthrough in the field.

Previous incarnations of haptic technology have required the user to be in physical contact with the device, which can lead to many limitations. "UltraHaptics" goes some way towards addressing those issues and has a lot of future potential. "Even if you provide [haptic] feedback on a touch screen you have to fumble around pressing all the buttons, whereas with our system you can wave your hand vaguely in the air and you'll get the feeling on the hand," notes Tom Carter, a PhD Student with the BIG research group: "We can give different points of feeling at the same time that feel different so you can assign a meaning to them. So the "play" button feels different from the "volume" button and you can feel them just by waving your hand." These perceived differences in texture are generated by the device varying the modulation frequency or pulsing the feedback.

The technology is still in its infancy, but many uses for it are already cropping up. Being able to add layers of tactile information above a screen adds a wealth of potential new uses. It can also help augment existing technology for those with sight impediments. When used in conjunction with current generation motion sensor technology, the creation of a more physically responsive and interactive 3D interface edges one step closer.

Source: University of Bristol

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Great, another 3D novelty device that will be ridiculously expensive. >.>

Oh good, I see that The Future is coming along swiftly and nicely. Carry on, then.

Seriously though, I can't wait to see it in a more developed form.

Good to see some news from my home city's university on here.

Blaster395:
Good to see some news from my home city's university on here.

Was about to say the same me babber!

Looks crazy, would love to try it to see if it works as well as it sounds. The applications could be quite varied too, serious money to be made in adult entertainment also?

O:-)

I read "pinpoint precision" and thought "So, we can turn this haptic device into a potential weapon?"

Could someone hack one of these and make the thing fire a bolt of vibration no wider than a pin directly at the users eyes?

The future, everyone!

Being able to "feel" elements of a website could be a fantastic interface for blind people.

In addition to the sheer viability of this technology in the future, this bodes quite well for people like me who have an insatiable need to clean smudges and fingerprints off their screens.

I'm not sure I would feel comfortable with something that can create soundwaves strong enough for me to feel them in thin air and is designed for haptic feedback.
What if it malfunctions and blows up in my face at full force?

GoaThief:
Looks crazy, would love to try it to see if it works as well as it sounds. The applications could be quite varied too, serious money to be made in adult entertainment also?

sorsa:
Being able to "feel" elements of a website could be a fantastic interface for blind people.

You guys should get together sometime ;)

Honestly, after watching Accel World, I don't care about holographic interfaces until only I can see them and I can look like an idiot typing on nothing and can exercise my arms by sliding windows. Hopefully by then I can run around a virtual game as an adorable pig. Now improved haptic feedback on touch screens is always a good thing.

yet another step closer to the holodeck!

Captcha: Seriously! I told you before and I will tell you again
NO I don't eat at ruby Tuesdays, TGIF Fridays or any of the other dumb restaurants you are advertising for!

j-just take my money dammit

Zachary Amaranth:
Great, another 3D novelty device that will be ridiculously expensive. >.>

There's nothing inherently expensive about the tech they've described. This will only be expensive if it doesn't catch on.

But haptic feedback is hardly a novelty. - The lack of it is why touchscreens are less usable than physical keyboards. (Because on a touchscreen you have to look at what you're doing, while on a keyboard, with practice you can do it by feel alone.)

Touchscreens have advantages in being reconfigurable, but lack of haptic feedback limits the utility of this. - Haptic feedback is not a novelty.

If it could be implemented properly, physical keyboards and the like will probably become largely obsolete. - If it never works out, they'll remain a common input device far into the future.

Look - it's the next wii!

CrystalShadow:

Zachary Amaranth:
Great, another 3D novelty device that will be ridiculously expensive. >.>

There's nothing inherently expensive about the tech they've described. This will only be expensive if it doesn't catch on.

But haptic feedback is hardly a novelty. - The lack of it is why touchscreens are less usable than physical keyboards. (Because on a touchscreen you have to look at what you're doing, while on a keyboard, with practice you can do it by feel alone.)

Touchscreens have advantages in being reconfigurable, but lack of haptic feedback limits the utility of this. - Haptic feedback is not a novelty.

If it could be implemented properly, physical keyboards and the like will probably become largely obsolete. - If it never works out, they'll remain a common input device far into the future.

I'm just going to point out that this time I did use a smiley, so it's hard to see someone misconstruing my intent here.

Zachary Amaranth:

CrystalShadow:

Zachary Amaranth:
Great, another 3D novelty device that will be ridiculously expensive. >.>

There's nothing inherently expensive about the tech they've described. This will only be expensive if it doesn't catch on.

But haptic feedback is hardly a novelty. - The lack of it is why touchscreens are less usable than physical keyboards. (Because on a touchscreen you have to look at what you're doing, while on a keyboard, with practice you can do it by feel alone.)

Touchscreens have advantages in being reconfigurable, but lack of haptic feedback limits the utility of this. - Haptic feedback is not a novelty.

If it could be implemented properly, physical keyboards and the like will probably become largely obsolete. - If it never works out, they'll remain a common input device far into the future.

I'm just going to point out that this time I did use a smiley, so it's hard to see someone misconstruing my intent here.

>_< - It is, if someone misconstrues the meaning of the smiley. But whatever. Some of us are especially bad at spotting a less than obvious statement. (Which isn't so great when you're also prone to making them.) - Quite a source of unnessesary arguments I'm afraid. XD

IT'S HABBENDING!!!!

MINORITY REPORT HERE WE COME!

Well their current application of the device is horrid (mid air arm flail is just a bad way to do anything), but if they can turn it into a full body experience this could be quite the party piece.

 

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