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26 April

The Disney research and development team have once again taken technology to the cutting edge. They have developed a means by which a user can feel textures on a flat screen. Yep, you read that right!

Researchers at Disney have developed technology that simulates textures on a flat screen to allow viewers to feel what they are watching. They are also researching the ability to use Texture TV on larger screens that could enhance movies as you watch them.

According to Ivan Poupyrev, director of the interaction group at Disney Research in Pittsburgh, “Touch interaction has become the standard for smartphones, tablets and even desktop computers, so designing algorithms that can convert the visual content into believable tactile sensations has immense potential for enriching the user experience.”

Researchers will be presenting this new breakthrough at the Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology in St Andrews. They will demonstrate how the new technology can recreate the sensation of an edge or a bump, a ridge or even protrusions by enhancing the way that the skin moves when feeling real-life physical objects. It mimics the sensation of friction between a surface and a fingertip. The technology uses vibrations which adjust to the on-screen image and gives the user the experience of being able to ‘touch’ whatever is being displayed.

In actuality, the skin of our fingertips stretches and compresses as it slides over objects, creating the sensations that communicate to our brain about what we are touching. Disney claims that this sensation can be recreated by applying an electrical field across a flat screen, which produces friction through electrostatic forces on the skin when a finger is dragged across it. By varying the strength of the electrostatic force, they say they can alter the friction to produce different textures without having to physically vibrate the screen.

“Our brain perceives the 3D bump on a surface mostly from information that it receives via skin stretching,” said Dr Poupyrev. “Therefore, if we artificially stretch skin on a finger as it slides on the touch screen, the brain will be fooled into thinking an actual physical bump is on a screen even though it is smooth.”

This technology isn’t JUST for watching programs. It can also help people feel their way around maps as the bumps and curves, hills and valleys manifest themselves. In addition, it can replicate the spines of a cactus or the curved shape of a seashell. And, while this may not serve for a public movie theater, textures could even be projected onto a movie screen. It could help visually impaired people to get an idea of what they are watching on a movie screen with the help of a phone or a tablet to capture the shapes.

This is an amazing breakthrough … for all kinds of applications. You KNOW that advertisers will love it, because it means more screen time for consumers. Mom and dad may not like the extra screen time, but innovation like this will allow advertisers to reach more eyeballs, and imagine using this tech in your ads when trying to sell something or to grab someone’s attention! Genius Monkey does not have access to this technology yet, but we always like to know what’s coming down the road so that we can take care of our friends and clients in the most effective, cost-efficient way. We feel like the company that stays on top of its game, usually wins the game.

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