Touchscreens that feel nubbly or even fur-like? That's the surreal promise behind new technology from Tokyo firm Senseg, which allows users to feel textures captured in an image on a tablet's display screen — photos of pebbles, sandpaper, or packing material will feel like the real thing. (See a demonstration video below.) Here's a look at the futuristic technology:
A screen you can feel?
Yes. To create tactile feedback, the company says it uses "an ultra-low electrical current" to create "a small attractive force to finger skin," mimicking sensations like friction. "By modulating this attractive force a variety of sensations can be generated, from textured surfaces and edges to vibrations and more." For example, dragging your finger across an image of sandpaper will feel like the real deal, rough edges and all.
How does it do this?
The "secret" is a special material called Tixel, says Nic Halverson at Discovery News, a "durable, ultra-thin coating on the screen which transmits electro-vibration stimulus." Tixel can be applied to "nearly any surface, flat or curved, hard or soft," from smartphones that fit in the palm of your hand to 52-inch flatscreens.
So what can it be used for?
The potential applications are limitless: Virtual keyboards with discernible key edges; Braille tablets capable of helping the blind read; touch-based video games with "a new level immersion," says Jamie Keene at The Verge. "However, in order to make it into the hands of consumers, Senseg needs to secure hardware partners" — something the company is working on. Senseg hopes to have the technology on the market within the next year or two.