TeslaTouch is a new tactile interface technology that infuses finger-driven interfaces with physical, tactile feedback. It is based on the electrovibration principle, which can programmatically vary the friction between fingers and a touch panel. As the result, TeslaTouch requires no moving parts, unlike most of the existing tactile feedback technologies, which use vibration motors or some other mechanical devices.
When combined with an interactive graphical display, TeslaTouch enables the design of a wide variety of touch interfaces that allow the user to feel virtual elements and their properties through touch. For example, when dragging a file, the level of friction could convey the file size. Various textures and materials could be explored with fingers. Objects could be felt “snapping” into place or perhaps with a quick “rub” of email application’s icon, you could sense how many emails are unread. Finally, imagine a flat touch keyboard where the virtual keys can be felt.
TeslaTouch was developed at Disney Research Pittsburgh by Olivier Bau, Ali Israr, Chris Harrison and myself. The industrial design of TeslaTouch handheld prototype was done in collaboration with Mark Baskinger, CMU School of Design.