Disney Research Labs have unveiled a new touch screen feedback technology that provides a new level of changeable texture on glass screens.  The system at the moment works by determining the friction force between the users finger and touchscreen and then mapping this to a gradient on a virtual object.  The display then uses static charge and vibrations to simulate the feel of the object.

At the moment the system only works with objects that have been scanned in but the hardware required to scan is surprisingly simple – a Kinect will work for example.  In the longer term Disney is planning a number of other uses for this but the most interesting to me is on a smart phone or tablet.  Put two rear facing cameras on the back of the phone and a texture picture of the environment around you could be created in real time.  The potential advantages for the blind or partially sighted are obvious.

Beyond this there are a number of ideas that Disney is working on.  This could include braille, onscreen ridges for keyboards or controllers and the ability to tactility explore 3D objects while shopping or gaming.

Disney have not announced a timetable for most of these ideas to come to market but will be running pilot programs at their theme parks and licensing to hardware manufacturer’s over the next few months to year.

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