Most of us have kicked the CRT television to the curb in favor of a nice flat LCD screen. Well, you might be kicking that one to the curb next, if Microsoft Research can make this haptic touchscreen a reality. It has technology embedded behind an LCD flat panel screen to simulate the shape and weight of objects on the display. The device could be used for medical imaging as well as gaming.
Senior researcher Michael Pahud and his colleagues designed the LCD panel by embedding force sensors and a robotic arm that help control how much resistance the screen gives when a user presses his finger against it. A computer program adjusts the size and perspective of graphics to give a 3-D effect, and a different amount of force feedback is assigned to different objects. For example, a stone is more difficult to push off a ledge than a sponge.
The program also adjusts the contours of the virtual object, so that if a person drags his finger over a ball, it will feel round.
Microsoft created a demonstration pairing the 3-D tactile screen with images from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of a brain. The team wanted to show how a doctor could navigate the images by pushing their finger against the display. She would be able to draw notes on the 3-D display and even leave behind a force-feedback marker, or haptic dent, if she found an anomaly that needed to followed up on.
Medical imaging and gaming aside, I know most of us would love to see touch feedback in tablets and phones.
Credit: Microsoft Research