In the future, you may not just use a touchscreen to control your phone or tablet. If new work carried out by Disney Research is taken up by manufacturers, you may also be able to use it to ‘touch’ virtual objects.
Disney’s algorithm takes the local gradient of a virtual surface and uses it to generate an appropriate drag force between the user’s finger and the screen of an electrovibration-based friction display.
According to Disney, the feedback gives the user the illusion of running their finger over actual bumps and wrinkles.
Since the input to the algorithm is a depth map of the kind generated as standard by most 3D software, the system effectively means that users can ‘touch’ 3D rendered images.
(Images of real-world objects work too, but you have to 3D-scan the object in question first.)
Coming soon to a tablet near you?
We’ve no idea how realistic the results actually feel – and obviously, there’s a long way to go before any such system becomes commercially available – but this is still a lovely bit of mad science.
You can find more details on the Disney Research website via the link below.
Read more about Disney Research’s work on tactile rendering
(Includes the full research paper and a rather more beginner-friendly summary.)