What if you could feel what you see on touchscreens?

Credit: Disney

In life, there are a few rules we see as constants. Coke is better than Pepsi. Led Zepplin was the greatest band of all time. Flat stuff is flat. That last one is so tried and true, it doesn't need to be written: if something looks flat and is flat, then it’ll feel flat.

Disney apparently took issue with this last rule of nature, because it went ahead and figured out a way to create the sensation of texture on flat surfaces. In other words, it can make something flat feel not-flat. The idea is for you to be able to feel the shape and texture of items pictured on a touchscreen (e.g. if you see an apple, you'd be able to also feel that apple). It does this by regulating the electricity flow on the tablet itself. This actually makes sense. Think about static electricity. Sometimes, just before a jolt, you can feel something for a moment.

"Our brain perceives the 3D bump on a surface mostly from information that it receives via skin stretching," said Ivan Poupyrev, the director of Disney’s Interaction Group. "Therefore, if we can artificially stretch skin on a finger as it slides on the touch screen, the brain will be fooled into thinking an actual physical bump is on a touch screen even though the touch surface is completely smooth."

So why not use similar electrical pulses to create a texture you can feel? That way, if you’re, say, looking at a velvet coat on your smartphone and want to know how velvety it really feels, you theoretically could. "Touch interaction has become the standard for smartphones, tablets and even desktop computers, so designing algorithms that can convert the visual content into believable tactile sensations has immense potential for enriching the user experience," Poupyrev says.

Check the video below for more details.

Via Washington Post

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