New Disney technology can add texture to completely smooth touch screens

BY News Desk  October 7, 2013 at 11:54 AM EDT

By regulating a flow of voltage to the surface of smooth touch screen, Disney researchers in Pittsburgh discovered that they can create the sensation of texture and three-dimensional surfaces. The technology can represent an artificial texture applied to an image, or elevation data extracted from topographical maps. But how does a smooth surface simulate the feel of a 3D bump? Using the new technology developed by Disney Labs, a texture map of an image can be used to create the sensation of three dimensional surfaces on a flat touch screen. Photo courtesy of Disney Labs

“Our brain perceives the 3D bump on a surface mostly from information that it receives via skin stretching,” said Ivan Poupyrev, who directs Disney Research, Pittsburgh’s Interaction Group.

“Therefore, if we can artificially stretch skin on a finger as it slides on the touch screen, the brain will be fooled into thinking an actual physical bump is on a touch screen even though the touch surface is completely smooth,” he said.