Shifting the shape of touchscreens

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Shifting the shape of touchscreens

Postby sledge » Wed Dec 01, 2010 8:57 am

Imagine how much faster you could type on a touchscreen if the keys were raised under your fingers, like a real keyboard.

Microsoft boffins are working to make this exact scenario a reality with a new form of shape-shifting technology that could raise the surface of the screen in response to certain types of ultraviolet light striking the pixels.

A patent application lodged by the company this week proposes to deliver genuine texture, using pixel-sized plastic cells that cause the surface of the touchscreen to lift up or down.

The scientific substance behind the patent is a light-induced shape-memory polymer that could be added to the display to create a hard, protruding form when one wavelength of ultraviolet light is transmitted, shifting to a soft surface in response to a different wavelength.

Erez Kikin-Gil, named as the inventor of the technology, says the patent application is best suited to large computing displays such as Microsoft's coffee table touchscreen called Surface, targeted at organisations like schools and businesses.

The patent application says the surface computing system could be used to detect any suitable physical object, including fingers, styluses, mobile phones, cameras, other portable electronic consumer devices and barcodes.

“Such a display screen may not only display images to a user but may also visually present a user interface (eg, a virtual keyboard) with which a user may interact via input touches. Typically, such display screens provide a smooth look and feel to a user,” writes Kikin-Gil.

Christopher Lueg, a professor at the University of Tasmania’s school of computing, described the potential of the technology as huge.

‘‘Human cognition heavily depends on tactile feedback . . . a lot of people prefer Blackberries over iPhones and similar smartphones simply because they don't like the typing without tactile feedback. Having a more textured tactile experience like keys that can be felt would change the game,’’ he said.

‘‘I can see a whole range of applications not just for the visually impaired when using screens but also for novel types of interfaces including maps that reflect characteristics of the territory.’’

Patrick Baudisch, a display interaction expert at the University of Potsdam in Germany, who worked on the early development of the Surface computer told New Scientist: "Creating well-defined bumps on a touch surface is in many ways the holy grail of text entry on touch devices because it would enable touch typing at much faster speeds than on touchscreens today.

"There would be no more reason for mobile keypads – they would simply be emulated when necessary. That could effect massive change in this field." ... 18fu3.html

So is the old keyboard pad doomed?
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Re: Shifting the shape of touchscreens

Postby Brian » Wed Dec 01, 2010 9:33 am

It's an interesting use of technology, but I'm not sure what the benefit is over just putting a physical keyboard in the thing.
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