In a game-changing invention, engineers at Disney Research, Pittsburgh, have developed a new technique that allows you to feel the texture of objects seen on a flat touchscreen.
The novel algorithm enables a person sliding a finger across a topographic map displayed on a touchscreen to feel the bumps and curves of hills and valleys, despite the screen’s smooth surface.
The technique is based on the fact that when a person slides a finger over a real physical bump, he perceives the bump largely because lateral friction forces stretch and compress skin on the sliding finger.
By altering the friction encountered as a person’s fingertip glides across a surface, the Disney algorithm can create a perception of a 3D bump on a touch surface.
The method can be used to simulate the feel of a wide variety of objects and textures.
“Our brain perceives the 3D bump on a surface mostly from information that it receives via skin stretching,” said Ivan Poupyrev, who directs Disney Research, Pittsburgh’s Interaction Group.
“Therefore, if we can artificially stretch skin on a finger as it slides on the touchscreen, the brain will be fooled into thinking an actual physical bump is on a touchscreen even though the touch surface is completely smooth,” Poupyrev said in a statement.
In experiments, researchers used electrovibration to modulate the friction between the sliding finger and the touch surface with electrostatic forces.
Researchers created and validated a psychophysical model that closely simulates friction forces perceived by the human finger when it slides over a real bump.