Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Bumpy Touch Screens

PostedAugust 2, 2015

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Anchor Lead: We use all of our senses to experience the real world, but sight and sound dominate in the digital realm. Now researchers are trying to bring in the sense of touch.

Randy Atkins: Touch screens are made of smooth glass but Ed Colgate, a mechanical engineer at Northwestern University, wants your finger to feel more when you swipe across your phone.

Ed Colgate: From an engineering standpoint, well, the skin it turns out is a very complex sensory organ…we feel vibrations, we feel textures, we feel force, we feel deformation.

Randy Atkins: Colgate’s efforts to make glass convey those feelings, starts by tricking your finger into experiencing the sensation of a push using…

Ed Colgate: …very high frequency vibrations that you don’t feel or see or hear, but that nonetheless can help it turn into something that pushes on you.

Randy Atkins: Simulated bumps on the screen that can feel like, say, a keyboard popping up when you need to type. Such textured touch screens could help the visually impaired, enhance gaming, and make digital experiences more enriching for all. With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.