new electronics - We are surrounded by electronic machines, many of which have advanced at an astonishing rate. But, arguably, the way we interact with these machines has lagged far behind. For example, decades after speech recognition was invented, how many people do you hear talking to their pcs? The humble keyboard and mouse remain the dominant interface.
Smartphones and tablet computers already use the touchscreen interface to great effect and if some of the many research projects underway succeed, touch technology – or haptics – will transform the way we use electronic devices.
One promising example of haptics is OmniTouch, a wearable projection system developed by Microsoft Research and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in the US. It enables users to turn pads of paper, walls or even their own hands, arms and legs into graphical, interactive surfaces.
US company Novint Technologies is a leader in haptic interfaces for gaming, in the form of its Falcon and XIO products. Users hold onto the Falcon’s grip and as it moves, the computer tracks a 3d cursor. When the cursor touches a virtual object, the computer registers contact with that object and updates currents to motors in the device to create an appropriate force to the device’s handle, which the user feels.
Chris Harrison, of CMU’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute says, “The real world is full of rich haptic feedback: we push a door, grab a toothbrush, grasp a bottle. So far computing has lacked much touch input, so we’re mostly clicking buttons and poking touchscreens. But there is a huge opportunity for providing haptic feedback to the user, just as we get from real world actions.”