Disney Invents Textured Touchscreen
The mouse is at it again!
Disney (NYSE: DIS), the company that invented animated feature films and created the multiplane camera, not to mention “electricity generating paper,” just invented a touchscreen that lets you feel the shape of objects.
Technically the process is called “tactile rendering of 3D features.” According to The Washington Post, engineers at Disney Research have developed a rendering algorithm that uses small electronic pulses to trick your fingers into feeling bumps and texture – even though the surface is flat.
For the more scientifically curious, Disney Research Hub posted a YouTube video that explains the process in detail.
Not to detract from the amazing work of those Disney geniuses, but the notion that friction is the main path by which we perceive textures is not new. The phenomenon has been known since 2001. Disney, of course, turned theory into an actual potential product.
As with the recently unveiled electric generating paper, the future potential applications are what capture the imagination most. Consider, for example, being able to view a map on a tablet or smartphone and feel the contour – or shop online and feel the texture of a piece of clothing before making a purchase.
On a more serious note, think how a textured screen would benefit blind users – being able to navigate through smartphone menus by Braille-aided touch. What about the ability to walk on a sidewalk, using a combination of GPS and a textured screen to avoid obstacles?
From an educational perspective, the ability to add touch to the learning experience would turn computer images into real objects in the mind of a learner. It’s one thing to look at a picture of a dinosaur fossil, another to feel the ridges of what used to be bones.
Ivan Poupyrev, director of Disney’s Interaction Group said, “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.”
While Disney’s new algorithm has captured the headlines, others have shown interest as well. Rumors about a haptic, or touch-feedback Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone or iPad touchscreen keyboard have circulated for some time. As recently as last March, there was talk of an upcoming interface based on electronic stimulation.
At the time of this writing, Jim Probasco had no position in any mentioned securities.
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