Fujitsu Laboratories revealed last week that it has developed the industry's first technology to use ultrasonic vibrations to convey tactile sensations. This is achieved by varying the friction between the touchscreen display and the user's finger. This method enables the sensation of smooth or rough right on the display surface.
Fujitsu explains that by inducing an ultrasonic vibration on the surface of the touchscreen, a high-pressure layer of air is created between the screen's surface and the user's fingertip. This method reduces friction, thus creating a floating effect. Presumably, this effect would drain a device's battery, but that's not the case here, as the lab reports that it has developed a technology that induces vibrations efficiently at mobile device sizes.
For the sensation of roughness, Fujitsu Labs' tech rapidly cycles between high and low friction in response to touch information on the panel and the screen's display information. "This technology can generate a tactile illusion that the screen is bumpy or rough," Fujitsu Labs explains. "The combination of tactile information, visual information from the display, and audio information from the speakers enriches the user experience."
Both tactile techniques were added to a prototype tablet and displayed during Mobile World Congress 2014 last week. One demo allowed users to strum the strings of a koto, a traditional Japanese harp. Other demos allowed users to move a CD placed on a mixing deck, and to feel the rough skin of an alligator.
"By enabling more realistic and intuitive operability, the tactile sensory technology in this prototype has wide-ranging potential applications, including for electronic product catalogs, on tablets and other devices, as well as potential applications for a variety of services," Fujitsu Labs states.
Fujitsu and Fujitsu Laboratories are shooting for commercialization of this tech in fiscal 2015.