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Tactile

In what could just as easily prove to be a very bad idea as it could a good one, a startup company called Feelreal has created a virtual reality mask and helmet that lets you smell virtual environments. The company claims its devices stimulate both the olfactory (smell) and tactile (touch) senses, thereby immersing you in virtual water mist or wind or a battlefield. Read More
Three years ago, California-based startup Tactus Technology unveiled a pretty nifty prototype – it was a touchscreen which featured clear round buttons that could rise up over top of the characters on a mobile device's virtual keyboard, giving users the tactile sensation of using a physical keyboard. When not needed, however, those buttons flattened down and the screen became entirely smooth again. Now, that prototype has become a product known as Phorm, designed for use with all versions of the iPad mini. Read More
Hoping to bring back a bit of the personal touch to today's cold, impersonal digital communications, New Jersey-based startup Tactonics thinks the world might just get hooked on Tact messaging. With about the same effort it takes to send an emotionless, poorly spelled text message, you could send your loved ones a more heartfelt, meaningful "sensory message" that is intended to let them get in touch with your feelings. Read More
Just last month, Volvo announced a new safety system that warns drivers of approaching cyclists via a symbol on their car's head-up display. Not to be outdone, Jaguar Land Rover has just announced its own system, which takes a more tactile approach – among other things, it buzzes drivers' hands and feet, and even taps them on the shoulder. Read More
Tactile feedback is nothing new. It's been used in telecommunications and in entertainment for decades, and it became a standard feature in the late 1990s in mobile phones and video games – where vibrations alert you to new messages or help you "feel" the forces exerted on your avatar. Haptic technology has been very much a bit player in the fields that it's infiltrated, though, and only now are we seeing it begin to take its place alongside visual and audio tech as a key element in human-computer interaction. Read More
Getting around unfamiliar public spaces can be tough even with all your senses, but if you can't see where you're going it's downright intimidating. A new multi-sensory model promises a brighter future, though, with 3D maps that give spoken directions and building information when touched. The technology comes courtesy of a collaboration between tactile-graphics company Touch Graphics and the University of Buffalo's Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDeA Center), and while it was designed specifically to help visually-impaired people, it's also meant to show off the potential of tangible touch interfaces. Read More
Touchscreen interfaces may make our lives easier, but the things do tend to get smeared with finger oil and whatnot, plus they're notorious for spreading germs. That's why a team of researchers at the University of Tokyo, led by assistant professor Yasuaki Monnai, have developed the HaptoMime. It's an ATM-like interface that lets the user feel like they're touching a glass screen, when in fact they're touching nothing at all. Read More
Three years ago, we first heard about GelSight – an experimental new system for imaging microscopic objects. At the time, its suggested applications were in fields such as aerospace, forensics, dermatology and biometrics. Now, however, researchers at MIT and Northeastern University have found another use for it. They've incorporated it into an ultra-sensitive tactile sensor for robots. Read More
Scientists at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology have developed a method of concealing objects from the sensation of touch that would finally meet the exacting standards of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale princess, who felt a single pea prodding her beneath 20 mattresses and 20 feather beds. Read More
With the world seemingly transferring everything online to apps and cloud services, we're losing touch with how our actions trigger reactions. Bttn, a physical button that can be used in any way its owner sees fit, is an attempt to bring back a tactile element to the way we connect with everyone and everything around us. Read More
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