Screen images so real you can feel the bumps

The computer and smartphone screen of the future will move to another dimension from touchscreens and allow users to feel videos and images. Photo / AP
The computer and smartphone screen of the future will move to another dimension from touchscreens and allow users to feel videos and images. Photo / AP

Scientists at Disney have taken the touchscreen experience to the next level by creating a textured screen that allows viewers to feel videos and images.

An algorithm developed by Disney Research can be used on touch devices such as desktops, mobile phones and tablets, to simulate 3D features on screen including ridges, edges, protrusions and texture.

The virtual bumps are mapped in a way that controls the friction a user feels as their finger slides across the otherwise smooth flat-screen surface.

Examples of how the technology has been harnessed include users interacting with fossilised bones, a bunch of apples, a map of a mountain, a video stream of a swimming jellyfish, and the contours of a kettle.

Vibrations from devices fool the body by mimicking the stretch and push on skin that would happen when a person encounters an object in real life.

Ivan Poupyrev, the director of Disney Research, Pittsburgh Interaction Group, said: "Our brain perceives the 3D bump on a surface mostly from information that it receives via skin stretching. 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".

Scientists calculated the relationship between the voltage applied to the display and the amount of pressure different touchscreen users apply, and used this to make resistance felt on screen correspond to the sloping of objects on screen.

The study shows that viewers are at least three times more likely to prefer a textured screen to models already on the market.

The technology was being presented at the ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology in St Andrews, Scotland.

- Independent

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