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Bendable Magnetic Interface

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Microsoft Research Cambridge scientists are developing an experimental tactile interface that enables users to interact with devices by squishing, stretching, rolling, or rubbing the interface system. The new device is based on a sensor tile that produces multiple magnetic fields above its surface. The system can track the movement of a metal object across its surface by monitoring disturbances to those fields, or the manipulation of a bladder filled with iron filings or a magnetic fluid. Users could drag a ball bearing across the surface to move a cursor across a computer screen, or manipulate a ferrous-fluid filled bladder to create three-dimensional virtual objects.

Microsoft Research Cambridge's Stuart Taylor says the surface can be reconfigured to work with many different types of input. Taylor and Microsoft researchers created arrays of 64 magnetic coils, each wrapped in a coiled wire, within a 100-square centimeter tile. The result is a device that is similar to an electric guitar, where if the field is disrupted, a current is induced in the coil. The researchers have explored applying currents to the coils to induce physical effects in objects placed on top of the sensor tile, potentially allowing an input device to provide haptic force-feedback.

From Technology Review
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