The next time you buy a new sofa, you could "touch" its new fabric with your fingers directly online.
The doctor Cynthia Hipwell at Texas A&M University he is leading a team working to better define how the finger interacts with a device. The target? Contribute to the development of a new generation touch technology, based on a touch screen.
The research of the team was recently published in Advanced Materials.
A touch screen touch to touch and retouch
The ultimate goal, as mentioned, is to give touch devices the ability to provide users with a richer touch-based experience by mimicking the feel of physical objects. Hipwell shared examples of potential tactile technology implementations. They range from a more immersive virtual reality platform to tactile display interfaces such as those in a vehicle dashboard. Even a virtual shopping experience that would make the user feel the texture of the materials before buying them.
"This could allow you to actually hear textures, buttons, slides and knobs on the screen," says Hipwell.
The top would be to bring tactile technology into shopping so that you can feel the texture of fabrics and other products as you shop online.Cynthia Hipwell
Touch the web
Hipwell explained that in its essence, the "touch" in current touch screen technology is more for the benefit of the screen than for the user. With the emergence and improvement of an increasingly sophisticated tactile technology, the relationship between user and device will be more reciprocal.
The addition of these sensory inputs will ultimately enrich virtual environments and lighten the communication load currently borne by audio and images.
When we look at virtual experiences, right now they are mostly audio and visual. In the advent of the "metaverse next future ", bringing touch into human-machine interfaces can offer many more possibilities. A touch screen can attract attention in a more discreet way, and avoid an overload of audiovisual stimuli.
Work on the touch screen
The commitment of the researchers of the University of Texas concerns the so-called "Multiphysics" of the interactions between fingers and device. Multiphysics is the complex of processes that occur simultaneously, involving multiple physical fields: needless to say that these are very complex flows, which change from user to user, and from condition to condition.
It's not just about the mechanics of touch: the type of movement, its intensity, the electrostatic charge of a finger. While for colors and audio the perception can be more univocal (interpreting a word, or distinguishing a color), in the case of tactile technology there are more parameters. The team's work aims to create predictive models that have the maximum tactile effect without too many environmental variations.
Will they ever succeed? Both the research and development of this technology continue to progress, and I believe that consumers will begin to see the first elements implemented in common devices within the next 5 years. Some of the first products are already under development.