Disney Research has unveiled an electrostatic tactile feedback system that is able to simulate friction forces on a touch screen. It will then create the illusion of surface variations, making the user "feel" that he is touching a 3D object displayed on the screen.
This system is driven by a "tactile rendering algorithm", developed by Disney Research, Pittsburgh. With this algorithm, the system is able to generate electrostatic charges on the touch screen to simulate frictional forces that are experienced at touch. Most importantly, the sensation of the user's skin being pulled and stretched by frictional forces is simulated, creating the experience of touch and feel.
The touch-enabled display needs to able to deliver electrovibration in order to simulate frictional forces. At the same time, a 3D map of the visual content needs to be captured beforehand. However, the researchers claim that their tactile rendering algorithm is lightweight and can be easily incorporated into video streams and static images. The unique selling point of the system is its flexibility as the team claims that it can be applied to dynamic visual content. This is in comparison with traditional tactile feedback systems that are based "on a library of canned effects", usually delivered through vibration.
Just a few months ago, we witnessed Disney magic in the form of high-res 3D simulation technology from 2D images, and Touché, a system that allowed surface to detect human touch inputs. We do hope that the company is able to amalgamate these research efforts into a truly immersive technology for the ultimate user experience. Head over here to read the full press release from Disney Research, and information on the current team's research can be found here.