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Touching is believing

Yesterday I participated at the WCIT in Guadalajara and took some time visiting the Expo. I run onto the Fujitsu stand and I had the pleasure to try out a prototype tablet they had on show.
I have been reporting on research on haptic interfaces for some years now, and a few years ago I had a post on a research that aimed at using vibration of a surface as a way to fool our sense of touch into "feeling" a variety of textures, soft, hard, slippery, sticky, even wet and dry!
Well it turns out that Fujitsu has come up with a good industrial implementation of this principle by embedding a vibration generator using ultrasounds under a tablet screen having a very good resolution (they don’t declare what it is but the sensation you get is really precise).
On the screen there was a safe knob and you could feel the tiny bumps you expect from that when turning the knob. They also had several images you can touch and one was clearly smooth, another was stick, another was rough.  Apparently they haven’t be able, so far, to model wet and dry but I guess it is just a matter of time.
Talking about time: they expect a commercial release of this haptic interface on their tablet within one-two years.
I have to say that the impression I got was of pure amazement: one thing is to write about something, quite another to touch and feel it!
I am looking forward to the time when this kind of interfaces will be taken for granted moving up one notch into a seamless boundary between the physical and the virtual.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.