Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Putting the Touch Into Touchscreens

How a person's brain interprets the sense of touch?

Researchers are studying new haptics technologies and how a person's brain interprets the sense of touch. For example, Marie Curie University researchers are developing a system that uses surface vibrations to generate sensations of texture. By changing the frequencies of the vibration, the researchers are able to make the surface feel rougher or smoother.

Meanwhile, Mexican computer engineer Gabriel Robles De La Torre is using vibrating surfaces to simulate sensations of sharpness by using motors to create lateral movement to a smooth, flat surface. The technique produces a change in the resistance a user's finger feels as it moves across a certain part of the screen, which is perceived as a sharp edge. Northwestern University engineer Ed Colgate is using vibrations to make objects feel more slippery. His system vibrates their surface at a very high frequency with an amplitude of about two micrometers.

University of Exeter's Ian Summers uses a force-feedback system featuring pressure-sensitive nerves instead of stretch-sensitive ones. The system is able to simulate the feel of several materials. And McGill University's Yon Visell has developed a novel surface designed to simulate walking on different types of ground, such as solid ground, gravel, or sand.

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