Haptics brings a personal touch to technology
Published: 5th Jul 2010 12:35:59
When Aldous Huxley described the 'Feelies' of his 1930s satire Brave New World he envisaged a world in which touch would be exploited by the technology of the future as much as vision. How wrong he was.
Of all the senses, touch as been somewhat neglected as a human means of interacting with machines.
Haptics - which could lead to people interacting with virtual objects using a sense of touch or feel - means to change all that. Labs around the world are now racing to close the gap while the first commercial applications are hitting the market.
For the first time people will be actually be able to have a virtual feel of some of the images that are placed before them.
Keeping in touch
A leading advocate of haptics is Russian scientist Doctor Ivan Poupyrev, now a senior researcher at Disney Research Labs in Pittsburgh. He claims this area is going to be "huge", particularly for hand held devices.
"We don't do enough with touch," said Dr Poupyrev.
"The basic goal of the technology we are developing at Disney is to create a perception of texture - to let people 'feel' objects on screen by stroking them with their fingers.
"We do this by applying a high voltage to a transparent electrode on the glass plate - in this case people will feel a texture on the glass. By varying the frequency and amplitude of the signal we can create different sensations."
Flexibility should take a further step and let people feel them, stretch them, bend them and have them react to these interactions
The results can recreate the feeling of paper or a textile, simulate the smoothness of glass and even the roughness of sand paper.
This work follows on from Dr Poupyrev's earlier research at the Sony labs in Tokyo. The scientist and his team came up with a prototype touch screen for a mobile phone that added a sense of touch in the form of tactile feedback.
"With devices getting smaller and increasingly mobile, I thought it was time we exploited our sense of touch," he said.
"For a start we wanted to create what had never been achieved before - a touch screen that really responded back when you touched it."
Dubbed "TouchEngine", tactile feedback is achieved using tiny bendable strips of crystals known as actuators placed under a thin LCD screen that pulsate slightly when the screen is touched.
It eventually led to a touch panel that generates tactile feedback and also detects the amount of pressure applied to the panel.
If, for example, someone were to apply more pressure to the screen displaying an icon the speed of switching between icons would intensify.
However, being able to feel feedback though the fingertips from a hand-held screen was just the start.
Ivan Poupyrev also teamed up with designers Carsten Schwesig and Eijiro Mori to develop a bendable credit-card-sized device nicknamed Gummi. The card is activated by the bending motion.
The prototype Gummi uses bendable organic light-emitting display (OLED) technology. Sony claims to have created the world's most flexible OLED so far - so thin and flexible that the colour display can be rolled around a pencil while streaming video.
Flexible electronic paper is already on the market in the form of e-readers.
LG Display plans to launch mass-production of an 11.5-inch (29cm) flexible e-paper display "in the near future". The market for more paper-like displays will be substantial according to market researcher DisplaySearch.
Combining haptics with these bendable electronics could give rise to a whole new generation of flexible devices, said Dr Poupyrev.
"[E-reader manufacturer] Plastic Logic has an e-reader where all the driving electronics are built out of plastic transistors. Potentially, it could allow for the creation of a completely flexible device."
The results could resemble the very malleable Gummi.
"Users can control the amount of bending very accurately," said Carsten Schwesig.
"The Gummi GUI contains intuitive bending controls for tasks that exploit this fact, such as zooming in and out of a map, controlling the playback speed of media files and controlling the composition of image layers.
"More information can be displayed on the small screen in the absence of buttons or additional menu hierarchies."
There are already some touch feedback devices in the shops, including Samsung's Haptic phone with its vibrating screen that makes a tick motion when the screen is touched, confirming that it has understood the user's command.
Toshiba recently demoed its "New Sensation UI Solution," which uses E-sense technology from Finnish company Senseg.
E-Sense can produce localised tactile feedback by controlling the electric charge on a film affixed to the touch-panel.
It means users can feel different sensations such as touching wood, metal and soft materials, says Toshiba.
Technologies such as these could take touchscreen technology - such as that used in Apple's iPad - to the "next level", according to Dr Poupyrev.
"iPad allows people to touch virtual objects as though they were real," he said
"Flexibility should take a further step and let people feel them, stretch them, bend them and have them react to these interactions," he said.
At 18:58:48 in HeadlinesNigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan has ordered a forensic audit of the state oil firm following claims that $20bn (£12bn) had gone missing.
At 18:47:16 in ScotlandA driver whose car mounted a pavement in Glasgow killing two students is not immune from prosecution if he gives evidence at a fatal accident inquiry.
At 18:38:09 in BusinessWall Street bonuses rose 15% last year, to the highest level since the global financial crisis, according to the New York state finance chief.
At 18:37:29 in SportTruro City have sacked manager Steve Massey with the club in 19th position in the Southern League Premier table.
At 18:34:40 in BusinessA judge has told ex-Goldman Sachs trader Fabrice Tourre to pay more than $825,000 after a jury found him liable for defrauding investors.
At 18:28:58 in EnglandA former rugby league player has gone on trial accused of sexual offences dating back to when he was a child.
At 18:25:02 in EnglandNetwork Rail has said it has no idea when the line linking East Sussex, Kent and London will fully reopen.
At 18:23:45 in SportMike Ross hopes Ireland's punishing series of scrum sessions will pay more dividends in Saturday's crunch Six Nations game against France in Paris.
At 18:15:12 in SportEverton winger Aiden McGeady says he has no regrets about choosing Republic of Ireland over Scotland and expects to be booed when they meet in November.
At 18:14:04 in ScotlandA 51-year-old man has been arrested as part of a cross-European police operation.
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2010. Haptics brings a personal touch to technology [Online] (Updated 5th Jul 2010)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/72629/Haptics-brings-a-personal-touch-to-technology [Accessed 12th Mar 2014]
News In Other Categories
Long-running US sitcom The Big Bang Theory has been extended for a further three series, broadcaster CBS has said.
The family of a man who died after what was called one of the worst examples of poor treatment in the Welsh NHS, has accused the General Medical Council of refusing to take action against some doctors responsible for his care.
The survivor of a serious motorbike accident has had pioneering surgery to reconstruct his face using a series of 3D printed parts.
Truro City have sacked manager Steve Massey with the club in 19th position in the Southern League Premier table.
A Department of Education official has said it has been at fault in its "relentless focus on achievement".
With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com