The way we interact with smartphones and tablets today is flawed, according to Microsoft’s Hong Tan.
A senior researcher at the company, Tan believes we shouldn’t be limited to tapping and sliding our fingers across a glass screen — so she’s working to change that.
Microsoft is developing touchscreen technology for mobile devices that will be able to provide different sensations based on what you’re tapping. So, for example, if you’re typing on a touchscreen keyboard, you would feel a sensation similar to pressing a key.
If you’re tapping an on-screen button, you’d feel something similar to a mouse click. You’d be able to sense the weight of a folder when dragging and dropping a group of files somewhere else on your device’s home screen, the company wrote in a new blog post explaining the tech (via Phone Arena).
Researchers at Microsoft are currently investigating a range of different tactile feedback sensations that involve both hardware and software. This means different touch responses would probably correlate with specific software features.
Microsoft is using a few different methods to achieve these effects. For a keyboard sensation, the company puts a layer of material under the glass that bends under electronic voltage. This would enable the glass to bend slightly with each key press.
Another approach uses a system called electrovibration, which alternates the voltage applied to the glass surface. This changes the friction between your fingertip and the glass, creating sticky and smooth sensations. Sensors would be placed in the bezel of a smartphone or tablet to create this effect.
Microsoft isn’t the only company working on this type of technology. Startup Tactus recently announced its iPad case that can generate physical keys from your Apple’s tablet’s flat display. At this year’s Mobile World Congress, electronics maker Fujitsu demoed a sensory touchscreen that allows you to feel different textures.
It seems unlikely we’ll see this tech in consumer products anytime soon, but it shows that companies are putting more resources into making smartphones and tablets our primary computers.
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