5 of the latest developments and what they could mean for our future touch-devices.
The future of touch technology is mind-blowing! We’re on the verge of some incredibly powerful tools that could change the world. We found 5 really exciting innovations that we wanted to share:
Yes, you read that correctly. We could actually one day [relatively soon] have prosthetics that could actually sense touch and send those signals to our brain. A mouldable piezoelectric plastic material is being developed by scientists at the University of Chicago.
Piezoelectric materials generate electric currents when deformed. When wired with a circuit they can communicate localized touch sensation to the nervous system.
As you can imagine this would be a huge game-changer for everyone with prosthetics. (Read the study here)
Holographic technology is attempting to take a leap from the visual experience to the tactile one. There are two ways that this is being explored by different companies:
1. Air – a Walt Disney Company is experimenting with the use of small rings of air being projected into space along with the holographic image. These air currents provide a textured tactile experience of the image.
2. Sound – a team at the University of Bristol is working with the use of ultrasonic sound waves to create a textured sensation in mid-air. Ultrasound speakers are embedded behind a display and based on an image, produce high frequency sound waves in relation to the visual contours of the image.
This as a way to greatly enhance the gaming experience. It also has great potential applications for long-distance communication via such programs as Skype or FaceTime.
Fujitsu Labs are experimenting with technology that essentially turns all surfaces into a touch screen surface. You place any object on a specially designed table and the camera set-up tracks the movements of your hands and can detect and respond to your contact [on whatever surface]. An example of it’s use is if you have a book on the table and you want to “highlight” a certain portion of text. Based on where you contact the page and how you move your hand after that contact, the table highlights that content.
Morphing Touchscreen tech
The thing about our touchscreens now is that there are no actual buttons. That’s kind of been the point so far, but many of us still greatly prefer to be able to feel the contours of buttons and clearly delineated borders for a ‘letter tile’ on a phone. So that’s where the morphing touchscreen comes in.
Tactus Technology is developing a touch screen with small channels / tubes that run throughout the screen. When a certain command triggers the tubes, they are filled with a microfluid oil. This inflates regions of the screen, raising temporary buttons. When you’re done with them you can just deflate them back to a normal flat touchscreen.
Renewal Energy Source?
Solar and wind energy is so last-year… Or so some researchers would have us believe from the Georgia Institute of Technology, who are investigating the potential of harvesting renewable energy from human touch.
Utilizing the triboelectric effect (which is where certain materials become electrically charged after they come into frictional contact with another material), they’ve shown that placing a special nanogenerator film on objects has the potential to generate meaningful amounts of electricity.
Imagine if your touchscreen phone charged itself when you use it? Those thumb taps could end up being the key to ensuring your battery doesn’t die. This could also apply to all computers if keyboards are outfitted with these nanogenerator films! Going green could be as simple as typing up this article!
We originally published this article in our quarterly E-Magazine, called TOUCH (Technology Edition). See more touch tech articles in the magazine.