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Touch Screens that Touch Back


Forget putting your phone on vibrate. A novel "high-definition" touch-feedback display can give a touch screen the feel of a textured surface. The technology was developed for mobile devices by the San Jose CA-based company Immersion, and is a step toward mimicking the feel of physical buttons on flat screens.

Simple haptic interfaces have been used in cell phones for years, to create silent alerts or provide limited tactile feedback when an onscreen button has been pressed. But such interfaces typically rely on elliptical vibration motors to create a shaking sensation, an approach that is slow and imprecise. Immersion believes this can be greatly improved by switching to a piezoelectric actuator.

Piezeoelectric materials produce mechanical stress in response to an applied voltage, or vice versa. They do this at great speed, which means piezoelectric actuators can respond quickly when a screen is being touched, says Steve Kingsley-Jones, Immersion's director of product management.

A prototype device featuring the technology was demoed two weeks ago at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. When activated, a piezoelectric strip placed along one edge of a touch screen causes the screen to move from side to side, a slight movement that is felt by a finger touching the screen. A suspension system holds the screen in place, ensuring that the case does not move.

From Technology Review
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