Researchers at Disney have come up with a way to make touchscreens feel like 3D textures, without reshaping the displays.
The technology uses electrovibration – a slight voltage applied to the users’ fingertips – to simulate the friction created when an object is touched. This friction is what the brain translates into the sense of touch, with different levels associated with varying textures.
When increased and decreased in reflection with an image on the display, the electrostatic voltage transmitted by the screen can mimic ridges, bumps and patterns accordingly. For example, a user touching an image of a ball would feel the smooth and gradual increase of friction to recreate the ball’s curved surface, while somebody stroking the edge of stack of magazines would feel sudden jumps in friction to copy the images’ harder edges.
Also developed by Disney researchers is the use of paper to generate small electrical currents, which are shown to illuminate several LEDs and display messages, animations and images in a children’s book using e-paper.
The cheap-to-make electrical paper uses strips of Teflon and silver-coated polyester, but can also be printed using conductive ink. When a panel is rubbed, either directly or via a button or rotation, the energy can be used for such actions as lighting up the LED lights of a spaceship, or to make the face of an astronaut (who, in the video’s example, is a cat) appear.
Watch the videos of the textured touchscreens and the electrical paper from Disney Research below: