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
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.


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14 Comments

1. nothingmuch

Posts: 201; Member since: May 03, 2013

Umm no way, DEFINITELY PASS!

2. LetsBeHonest

Posts: 1548; Member since: Jun 04, 2013

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

14. T.Law

Posts: 423; Member since: May 10, 2014

"(cancelled but not discontinued)" Do you even know the difference between cancelled and discontinued?

3. swiekekodok

Posts: 58; Member since: Jul 19, 2014

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

4. lalalaman

Posts: 638; Member since: Aug 19, 2013

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

5. swiekekodok

Posts: 58; Member since: Jul 19, 2014

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

7. jacko1977

Posts: 428; Member since: Feb 11, 2012

piezo tech was used in the blackberry storm 2 nothing new here

9. 87186

Posts: 312; Member since: Aug 01, 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.

6. rodneyej1

Posts: 3576; Member since: Jul 06, 2013

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

8. 87186

Posts: 312; Member since: Aug 01, 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.

10. Armchair_Commentator

Posts: 222; Member since: May 08, 2014

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

11. Parazels

Posts: 4; Member since: Aug 06, 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...

12. 0xFFFF

Posts: 3806; Member since: Apr 16, 2014

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

13. pavsidhu

Posts: 214; Member since: May 20, 2014

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

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