The mobile phone has a long history of transformations behind it. It started as a clumsy accessory in vehicles for voice communication for people on the go. Cell phones today are as much about utility as they are about fun. Advanced models compete for consumer desire to buy. If early mobile phones were purely useful gadgets, today they are as important a part of a user’s life as clothes, food and money.
The change is partly about new jobs. Phones are evaluated according to the opportunities they offer and how easy they are to use. The fact that the interface is based on direct manipulation via a visual interface of applications and functions – via icons, sliders and buttons – makes the phone look natural and intuitive.
The crisp color screen, clickable icons, as well as voice control with live feedback form a user interface that naturally matches how he interacts with the outside world via his senses.
But while hearing and sight are stimulated in abundance, there is a neglected mind: feeling. Users poke and touch their phones and tablets in other ways. It is in itself really a tactile experience. But the only structure they feel with their fingers is a uniformly smooth glass surface.
Compare with the customer’s behavior in the clothing or furniture store. Products are instinctively judged not only by their shape but also by how they feel against the skin, by their material and texture – their shaped surface structure. The touch screen surface lacks character. There is no interesting connection with the skin’s sensory senses. The screen has a strong visual impact with its rich color reproduction and sharp resolution, but it lacks an appreciable dimension in user interaction.
This is a huge missed opportunity in today’s foreground. At the same time, the technology is ready to use which can provide an almost infinite palette of structure and surface character to be applied to screen glass. And on the back of the phone if you will. And on the sides. And on other surfaces – that doesn’t even have to be screens.
Touch screens can be attractive for the first time without being distracting. User interfaces can be made simpler and more intuitive by allowing the mobile phone to be used without looking directly at it. Additionally, technology can be used to express a distinct brand profile. The technology concerned with surface pores is called software defined.
Limitations in current touch technology
Consumer electronics manufacturers are well aware of the tactile shortcomings of their touch screens. They are investing more and more development in the traditional touch technology in their more advanced smartphones.
Depends on vibration. The problem is that vibrohaptics is limited to a few effects. In addition, with limited opportunities for location and control. It only works on small screens.
The phenomenon of vibration in and of itself is not even a good reflection of how nature “behaves” when interacting with the skin. From birth, we learn a lot by feeling how the world works, but this happens not because things around us vibrate, but because they have texture, weight, resistance to pressure, and other physical properties.
The basic technology of motor-driven vibrations was developed as early as 1928 and is still based on the same type of electromechanical solutions. The range of effects that can be produced is limited by what characterizes the vibration: frequency, time pattern, and amplitude.
The only thing that is achieved in the end is a kind of uniform vibration of the entire product. Vibrations tend to spread and no one with the piece of art has been successful in locating the vibration in a limited area on the screen.
Since the range and position of tactile interaction is limited in this way to the vibrating motion technology, its main use is to act as a feedback mechanism that recognizes the touch of the screen. These comments are somewhat redundant because the processing itself is already a concrete event. Extended forms of tactile engagement, such as tactile search or navigation, are outside the realm of vibratory touch.
Another challenge is that vibrating touches become more difficult to implement as the screen size increases. The larger the screen, the larger the motor required to generate sufficient vibrations, and the larger and heavier structures required to mount the motor.
But despite the inherent flaws in vibrating touch, OEMs continue to try to develop and improve it in phones, game consoles, and other products. This indicates the important role that touch is perceived to play in deepening user engagement and making the experience more enjoyable.
So-called software-defined surface capture technology now opens up new opportunities to deliver tactile interaction. The range of surface textures that can be simulated is nearly infinite. It’s easy to combine this technology with existing touch, sound and graphics control. Because it is a semiconductor technology, it can be implemented in screens of any shape and size, as well as on other surfaces, such as glass and plastic casings. In addition, it does not suffer from mechanical problems associated with vibration pores. Surface touches use force, not vibration, to produce the tactile experience.
Controlled by electrostatic force
Static electricity is the basis. Between adjacent surfaces, it is possible to create an attractive force called electrostatic adhesion (adhesion). By controlling the voltage applied to a transparent matrix of indium tin oxide (ITO is the same material used in touch screen sensors) coated on the screen surface, it is possible to regulate how strongly the user’s fingers stick to the screen surface (see Figure 2). The natural friction force between the finger and the glass is amplified and modified. In this way, it is possible to create the illusion that the smooth surface of the screen has different textures.
The principle of electrical adhesion has long been known. The new is a solution to be implemented in regular screens as well as on various other surfaces and materials. An intuitive development environment is used to define custom texture effects in the program.
That’s what TanvasTouch promises. It is a product from Tanvas for finishing touches. It gives designers precise control over creating surfaces that look different when touched.
The visual appearance and tactile feel within an area of the screen — virtual pushbuttons, switches, sliders, and rotary knobs — are built together in one package. With the help of electric suction cup, under the finger the user can experience a smooth glass panel just as a switch or feel position clicks from a rotating steering wheel. Or feel the texture any degree of softness.
When and where these surface haptic effects should be active can be precisely configured and dynamically selected. The Tanva tool builds a ‘live haptic landscape’ under the finger. The surface structure can be determined, for example, by the speed, location and direction of finger movement. Different tactile effects can be applied to different fingers and areas simultaneously. And the entire effect scene can be dynamically reconstructed as quickly as graphic content changes on the screen.
One of the core parts of TanvasTouch is a PC development tool that contains software, tools, and informational materials to allow the interface designer to immediately begin creating surface touch effects. The designer designs textures and effects based on an image associated with screen graphics (see image 3). TanvasTouch automatically generates the correct software code for the touch controller. The code is executed when a finger passes over the image of the designer on the screen.
Graphics screen or multisensory surface?
The fact that surface touch is now a possibility creates a new question for everyone who makes products with a screen interface: Should the interaction be purely visual? Or should a first-time user get a chance to experience a true multisensory surface where sight, hearing, and touch interact?
In product categories such as mobile phones, there is a natural tendency for products to converge towards increasingly looking the same, as there is a consensus among designers as to what works. This tends to erode the difference between brands – one mobile screen today is the other in terms of graphics performance and user interaction.
The new dimension of haptic interaction goes beyond sound and graphics. It creates space for a radically new type of differentiation: products and brands can develop their own unique brand profile.
OEMs will find ways to take advantage of recognizable structures and surface effects to make menu navigation easier or to create shortcuts to common responses and commands.
Ythaptik also provides an opportunity to improve the experience for a group of users that are often neglected: the blind and the visually impaired. Surface optics can be used to extend the ability to read the screen by, for example, enabling the user to detect and identify symbols and other digital objects by touch upon the swipe of a finger. OEMs can ask TanvasTouch for help in exploring these and other user interface design options for the visually impaired.
Even users with normal vision can benefit from such new arrangements. In places where you cannot use a smartphone normally, such as in a cinema, surface touch – unlike piezo touches – can be used to control the phone with a darkened screen, thus activating functions, controlling devices, and detecting notifications.
Surface touches enrich the interface experience
The electro-adhesion technology created with TanvasTouch is fully compatible with current standard touch screens and with upcoming screen concepts such as flexible screens (see Figure 2). This technology can be used as a complement to all existing methods of interacting with screens, including vibrating touch, a technology that works well for recognizing actions such as keystrokes and switches – possibly in response to some superficial tactile effects.
The value of surface touch is that technology enriches the user interface so that haptic feedback becomes an essential component of user interaction such as visual cues from graphics and audio from speakers. It is entirely conceivable that touches will evolve over time into the primary interface of personal electronics as an alternative to graphics and sound.
With TanvasTouch and its intuitive code environment, designing surface textures and effects is as easy as drawing a picture. This means that surface touch is a technology that has now given everyone who makes products with a built-in screen the opportunity to integrate.
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