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A Touchscreen You Can Really Feel


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EPFL LAI student Christophe Winter

Christophe Winter and other researchers at EPFL's Integrated Actuators Laboratory add tactile feedback to a touch interface by changing its friction coefficient. "We're adding the sense of touch to tactile surfaces," he says.

Credit: Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne

The texture of a touchscreen can be controlled to provide users with relief effects or tactile feedback, according to researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne Integrated Actuators Laboratory (LAI). The team has developed a new generation of tactile surfaces with the effects for use with smartphones, tablets, computers, and vending machines.

"We're adding the sense of touch to tactile surfaces," says LAI Ph.D. student Christophe Winter. "The term 'touchscreen' that's used to describe current technology is really a misnomer, because they only provide visual and auditory feedback."

View a video of Winter describing the technology and its application.

The team uses piezoelectric materials, which vibrate when a voltage is applied to them, to create a tactile surface. The researchers say that enabling users to feel actual raised keys under their fingers could improve the usability of devices and improve the user experience. The technology also could make devices more accessible for the visually impaired, make video games more entertaining, and enrich online texts.

From Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne
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