It appears the race is on to create a touchscreen that will provide haptic feedback. Leading the charge appears to be researchers at Bristol University in England and Disney Research.
In both cases the teams at Bristol University and Disney Research are working to find a way to simulate the sensation of touch on an otherwise smooth surface. The idea is to give the illusion of feeling a three dimensional object, such as buttons, edges to on screen objects, and other surfaces. However, both of these teams have different methods of creating the sensation of touch on their devices.
The researchers at Bristol University aim to start giving feedback to users of giant touch screen devices before they even touch the screen. Through the emission of ultrasonic vibrations from multiple points, the customers get the sensation of buzzing, thus giving the illusion they have touched an object. Currently, the technology looks to make it to retail spaces before reaching the home consumer market.
However, Disney Research has a solution a bit different. Instead of ultrasonic vibrations, their technology uses electrovibration. The idea in this technology is to simulate the sensation of friction that is created as you move your fingers over a surface. Using a custom algorithm, they are able to generate the feeling of a series of bumps, such as stacked objects, or a smooth curving surface, like a ball. All of this is generated on the fly depending on what is being displayed.
The potential for these technologies is huge in multiple markets, from retail to entertainment or from tablets to phones. Who knows, your first touch screen device with haptic feedback may come in the form of a Mouse.