CHENNAI: Researchers from IIT-Madras have developed a new touchscreen technology enabling users to feel the textures of objects on the display. Called ‘iTad’ (interactive Touch Active Display), it can mimic textures such as crisp edges and gritty surfaces.
Current touchscreens can only sense the position of one’s fingers, but offer no feedback. “When we add feedback, interaction with computers becomes experiential. iTad is unlike anything in the market today because it combines multi-touch sensing with haptics on the same layer,” said a statement from IIT-M.
There are no moving parts in iTad. Instead, an in-built multi-touch sensor detects finger movement and the surface friction is adjusted via software. By controlling electric fields via a physical phenomenon known as ‘electroadhesion,’ the software modulates friction locally as fingers travel across a smooth plane.
The research was led by Prof M Manivannan, department of applied mechanics, IIT-M. Merkel Haptics, a start-up incubated at the IIT-M Research Park, has been working with Touchlab to take the technology forward.
“This is the era of iTad. The technology can take the online shopping experience to the next level. We can touch and feel things before purchasing them on e-commerce platforms. Around 30% returns in online shopping are due to the mismatch between user experience and expectation,” said Manivannan.
PV Padmapriya, CEO, Merkel Haptics, said: “The prototype from Touchlab can be made into a product in a year. Our aim is to make a small device, similar to a computer mouse, on everyone’s desk to add to the experience. We have been field testing and providing valuable feedback to the researchers at IIT-M on improving the functionality of the technology.”