Until now, touchscreen device makers still have not properly addressed their products’ lack of tactile feedback. If Microsoft senior researcher Hong Tan her way, in the future touchscreen-equipped devices will let us feel clicks and more. Hong recently presented concepts for adding haptic feedback to touchscreens as well as thin electronic devices such as keyboards.
In a brief article and a YouTube video, Hong and Microsoft Research shared two of the methods that she and her colleagues came up with to introduce haptic feedback. The first method involves the use of piezoelectric actuators to emulate key clicks. The actuators can be installed on touchscreens or thin keyboards such as Microsoft’s Touch Cover for the Surface Pro. The actuators cause the touched area to bend ever so slightly when pressed, creating a sensation that confirms to the user that he pressed a key.
The second method is electrovibration, which is “alternating voltage applied to the glass surface” of a device. It can induce a sticky or rough sensation on smooth glass.
I’d still rather have something like Tactus’ retractable keys for typing. But as Microsoft said in its article, electrovibration may prove very helpful in a wide variety of situations, not just in using mobile devices.