Tactile Technology: 13 Off-Screen Touch Input Inventions

Floating Touch for Smartphones

Touch Technology Floating

Sony is experimenting with a touchscreen technology called ‘floating touch,’ which enables you to simply hover over something on the screen with your finger rather than actually touching it. You’d hover over something with your finger just like you do with a cursor on a computer, and tap to select.

Creating Tactile Texture with Ultrasound Waves

Touch Technology Ultrasound

Similar to what Disney did with haptic technology, this 3D touch tech from a research team at the University of Bristol uses ultrasound speakers embedded behind a display, used with a Leap Motion controller, to replicate the sensation of texture. The user doesn’t have to touch the screen at all: high-frequency sound waves produce an invisible field that feels like three-dimensional objects and surfaces.

Curved Touchscreens

Touch Technology Curved

Applying touchscreen ability to surfaces that aren’t totally flat has been a challenge thus far. Atmel’s XSense technology is being put to the test by ASUS, with a touch sensor that can be bent and bonded to any shape.

Making Anything into a Touchscreen

Touch Technology Any Surface Silicone

‘Time Domain Reflectometry,’ or TDR, could tell when and where your fingertip touches a wire by sending electrical pulses through the wire and measuring the time it takes for the pulses to return. The wiring is embedded in silicone. While it’s still pretty far from being ready for consumer applications, it’s an interesting possibility for the future.