Touch Screen Feedback Technology has Huge Potential for Visually Impaired People
Disney are creating a tablet screen with tactile feedback that will help visually impaired people.
Touchscreens get better all the time but researchers at Disney have thrown another innovation into the mix. The research team at the American mass media corporation have discovered an amazing way to generate tactile feedback on a smooth glass display. With Google already making leaps and bound with their Google Glass it’s exciting to see other companies making headway too.
This new technology offers huge potential for people living with visual impairments. It turns a touchscreen into a physically accessible and tactile object. It gives huge functionality – imagine a touchscreen keyboard that you can physically feel each key. This research could be truly revolutionary.
Electrovibration and Haptic Technology
Who knows where this will lead next! The research team discovered that the sensation of feeling any bump on any surface came mainly from the skin on the fingertip being pulled and stretched out of shape as it passed over the bump. They have then been able to replicate this exact sensation on a perfectly flat surface and this is achieved through electrovibration.
Electrovibration can be used to create electrostatic forces which then create friction against the finger creating that touch sensation. This is just one half of the research however.
The other half of this exciting development is a unique algorithm the Disney research team developed which generates these frictional forces dependent upon whatever is on any given screen. They have created an algorithm which will show stairs as a series of rigid steps whilst a ball would have a gradually curving surface. The technique is little more than a very clever trick but as far as anyone can see it works!
Haptic Technology and Visual Impairments
The initial thoughts when considering how this new development can be used have led people to think about gaming, interactive touchable story books and most importantly revolutionising touchscreen devices for people living with visual impairments. The display of a touchscreen tablet or phone could have all the tactile functionality of physical items around the home without any additional bulk.
Mobile devices are more popular than ever before and those living with disabilities may find themselves more reliant on them than others. This technology could truly take the usefulness of smartphones for people with disabilities to another level and there is scope for helping people with visual impairments navigating their environment with more understanding and comfort.
This is research Disney have been working on for many years and it seems they’ve finally cracked it. We’re excited to see where this technology goes next and whether it’s long before it’s available to be tried and tested. For now we’ve got this video which shows the technology in action:
If you have any ideas of how this technology may help you, please leave a comment below.
For the Disney Research page about this technology – click here