Touchscreens are already being implemented in cell phones and are expected to sweep through mobile and desktop computing, but a pair of Silicon Valley companies, Immersion and Apple, are planning to create haptic systems to artificially reproduce the feel of keyboards and other on-screen objects on touch devices.
Earlier in July Apple filed a U.S. patent application describing "systems, methods, computer-readable media, and other means for utilizing touch-based input components that provide localized haptic feedback to a user." The company's localized haptic feedback technology is designed to represent the boundaries of objects on screen as users run their fingers over them, transforming the touchscreen from a flat, disengaging device into something more intuitive. Two years ago Apple filed a patent application for "keystroke tactility arrangement on a smooth touch surface," which defines physical bumps and depressions in a screen that can be activated and deactivated according to what is displayed on screen.
Immersion's haptics products are used by surgeons to provide tactile feedback for advanced surgical procedures performed by robots. Chief technology officer Christophe Ramstein demonstrated the company's haptics technology at Fortune's Brainstorm Tech conference.
The next-generation systems are designed to facilitate thousands of different sensations that users will immediately recognize, and provide cues about onscreen action. High-fidelity haptics can help forge an emotional bond between people communicating electronically as well as between humans and machines.
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