TeslaTouch: Electrovibration for Touch Surfaces

TeslaTouch infuses finger-driven interfaces with physical feedback. The technology is based on the electrovibration principle, which can programmatically vary the electrostatic friction between fingers and a touch panel. Importantly, there are no moving parts, unlike most tactile feedback technologies, which typically employ mechanical actuators. This allows for different fingers to feel different sensations. When combined with an interactive graphical display, TeslaTouch enables the design of a wide variety of interfaces that allow the user to feel virtual elements through touch. For example, when dragging a file, the level of friction could convey the file size. Objects could "snap" into place when designing a presentation. Or perhaps with a quick "rub" of your email application's icon, you could sense how many emails are unread. Finally, imagine a (flat) touch keyboard where the virtual keys can be felt.

Tactile feedback based on electrovibration has several compelling properties. It is fast, low-powered, dynamic, and can be used in a wide range of interaction scenarios and applications, including multitouch interfaces. Our system demonstrates an exceptionally broad bandwidth and uniformity of response across a wide range of frequencies and amplitudes. Furthermore, the technology is highly scalable and can be used efficiently on touch surfaces of any size, shape and configuration, including large interactive tables, hand-held mobile devices, as well as curved, flexible and irregular touch surfaces. Lastly, because our design does not have any moving parts, it can be easily added to existing devices with minimal physical modification.

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Reference

Bau, O., Poupyrev, I., Israr, A., and Harrison, C. 2010. TeslaTouch: Electrovibration for Touch Surfaces. In Proceedings of the 23rd Annual ACM Symposium on User interface Software and Technology (New York, New York, October 3 - 6, 2010). UIST '10. ACM, New York, NY. 283-292.

© Chris Harrison