Microsoft’s research unit has published details of a touchscreen showing 3D images that can be felt and manipulated, simultating the sense of touch through tactile feedback mechanisms.
The system consists of an LCD touchscreen with force sensors and a robot arm moving it backwards and forwards with varying levels of resistance.
Demonstrating the technology at TechFest 2013, the researchers showed how virtual objects could be given different force responses corresponding to their supposed weights in reality. For example, one application demonstrated consisted of three virtual 3D boxes with different weights and friction forces depending on the material they were supposed to be made from – in this case, stone, wood and sponge. The stone block felt hard to the touch and required more force to push, while the sponge block was soft and easily moved.
The researchers see many applications for the technology beyond 3D gaming – modelling, education and medical were all cited.
A short video of the demonstration can be seen here.