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Microsoft shows off touch-screen prototypes that let you feel actual clicks and frictions

Posted: , by Luis D.

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Microsoft shows off touch-screen prototypes that let you feel actual clicks and frictions
Microsoft shows off touch-screen prototypes that let you feel actual clicks and frictions

No matter how sharp and colorful your smartphone or tablet's display is, underneath your fingers, working on it still feels like touching a mirror - cold, flat, lifeless, imprecise... and a little greasy. Screens with tactile feedback that emulate the sense of keyboard buttons have been in the works for a while, but this is a complex endeavor reserved for a more technologically adept future. Which doesn't stop Microsoft from being on the case as we speak. Redmond's research arm presented a very interesting publication and video that look deeply into tactile touch-screen technology that is in development in Asia. It's working prototypes stuff, not designer concepts.

MS researcher Hong Tan has a vision - she wants to "fully engage the sense of touch in user-device interaction" . A sense that's missing from the two-dimensional way in which we currently interact with our phones and tablets. We might be getting the occasional vibration or issuing a voice command here and there, but we're not getting a physical sensation as we press buttons and drag folders. Adding tactile feedback won't make computing more efficient, but it will certainly make it a more enjoyable, engaging experience.

Tan has been working to achieve that for 13 years, before she joined Microsoft Research in 2011. Her "Human-Computer Interaction" group has already created prototype screens that have layers of material under their flexible glass. The material bends under electric current, and the glass bends slightly as well, which ends up simulating a button press. Other accomplishments rely on alternating voltage to the screen, which changes the friction between it and the fingertips. This way, sticky, smooth, and rough surface sensations are being simulated. One of the prototype tablets has a screen, one area of which feels like sandpaper, and another has a notch for scrolling.

Interesting and novel as it is, the haptic technology lacks clear consumer applications and 'killer apps' to bring it to the mainstream - although the game of tactile Checkerboard played on a Lumia looks pretty cool, no? Of course, this doesn't mean we won't have smartphones and tablets that simulate the texture of fabrics when we look up clothes online, or shuffle their screens under our fingers to simulate button taps and clicks - it's just a matter of time and combined engineering effort.


14 Comments
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posted on 07 Aug 2014, 06:04 2

1. nothingmuch (Posts: 183; Member since: 03 May 2013)


Umm no way, DEFINITELY PASS!

posted on 07 Aug 2014, 06:05 6

2. LetsBeHonest (Posts: 1022; Member since: 04 Jun 2013)


Thats cool and innovative M$
hope future McLaren(cancelled but not discontinued) will get this tech.

posted on 09 Aug 2014, 02:06

14. T.Law (Posts: 360; Member since: 10 May 2014)


"(cancelled but not discontinued)"

Do you even know the difference between cancelled and discontinued?

posted on 07 Aug 2014, 06:10 3

3. swiekekodok (Posts: 58; Member since: 19 Jul 2014)


Look a like Blackberry Storm 9500/9550 screen tech??

posted on 07 Aug 2014, 06:17 2

4. lalalaman (Posts: 387; Member since: 19 Aug 2013)


I was thinking the same thing.....using that BlackBerry touch was interesting.....I just had to touch and press=)

posted on 07 Aug 2014, 06:29

5. swiekekodok (Posts: 58; Member since: 19 Jul 2014)


Touch+press,and then -----> wrecked!!... (mine too,....all over again),just prefer an usual touchscreen tech...

posted on 07 Aug 2014, 08:34

7. jacko1977 (Posts: 400; Member since: 11 Feb 2012)


piezo tech was used in the blackberry storm 2

nothing new here

posted on 07 Aug 2014, 09:10

9. 87186 (Posts: 85; Member since: 01 Aug 2014)


actually, the BB storm constisdted of a screen was, in reality, ONE giant button. the actualy screen never bent. watch the video and read please.

posted on 07 Aug 2014, 08:29 1

6. rodneyej1 (Posts: 3561; Member since: 06 Jul 2013)


Pretty cool!.. I can see where this would be useful.

posted on 07 Aug 2014, 09:09 2

8. 87186 (Posts: 85; Member since: 01 Aug 2014)


um, people saying this is the same tech inside of the BB storm, are wrong. the ENTIRE screen of the BB storm was essentially one gigantic button. if you read the article and watched the video, you would see that this is not the same technology.

posted on 07 Aug 2014, 11:46

10. Armchair_Commentator (Posts: 222; Member since: 08 May 2014)


I kind of miss the tactile feedback from my oldschool keypad phones when I made the switch to touchscreens I welcome this change

posted on 07 Aug 2014, 15:35

11. Parazels (Posts: 4; Member since: 06 Aug 2014)


I hope the on-screen buttons will be more comfortable for playing games with the technology. Now my fingers are often missing virtual buttons...

posted on 08 Aug 2014, 01:05

12. 0xFFFF (Posts: 3698; Member since: 16 Apr 2014)


Maybe this will be useful for blind people, if Microsoft can do some more work on it.

posted on 08 Aug 2014, 08:32

13. pavsidhu (Posts: 102; Member since: 20 May 2014)


I really want to try this out! I think it can benefit blind people too.

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