The ability to feel an image on a touchscreen may be here sooner than you think, and its all thanks to Mickey Mouse.
A Pittsburgh-based team for Disney Research has released video of a new project which can add tactile sensations to flat touchscreens, like those on most tablets and smartphones. The user will be able to feel the flat image as if it were a three-dimensional object, according to Disney Research. The technology used in the project is based around the discovery that fingertips perceive physical textures via friction stretching and compressing the skin.
An algorithm developed by the researchers "can create a perception of a 3D bump on a touch surface without having to physically move the surface," according to a Disney Research press release. "Our brain perceives the 3D bump on a surface mostly from information that it receives via skin stretching," said Ivan Poupyrev, the director of Disney Research, Pittsburgh's Interaction Group, via the press release. "Therefore, if we can artificially stretch skin on a finger as it slides on the touch screen, the brain will be fooled into thinking an actual physical bump is on a touch screen even though the touch surface is completely smooth."
The algorithm can generate tactile qualities such as bumps, ridges and edges, according to a project video, which can be seen above. The video suggests that among the uses for the technology are creating topographical features on map programs, so that users can "feel" the terrain of a region. The official site also states that the team used "Kinect-like sensors" to create depth-maps of the objects to be displayed on their screens.