Though still in the development phase, electronics giant Nokia is developing a way to let users “feel” icons on their touch screen smartphones.
It’s based on the concept of electrovibration, which has been a known quantity since the 1950s. Electrovibration is a perceived tactile feeling of “roughness” if a hand is swept across an insulating layer that is above a metal carrying alternating current.
The first recorded incidents of electrovibration came from workers maintaining poorly-shielded electrical equipment who experienced odd sensations when touching obviously smooth insulated surfaces.
It is the frequency of the current flowing through the metal that determines just how rough the insulated surface feels. The higher the frequency, the smoother the surface will feel to the touch.
The theory of its operation currently holds that electrovibration is due to the change in electrostatic attraction between the current-rich metal and the deep, liquidy layers of skin under our fingertips.
Nokia is hoping to cash in on this old effect by melding it with new technology – touch screen smartphones.
Every one loves touching their damn phones, often at the expense of real-life friendships or safety when they should be paying attention to the road while operating a motor vehicle, and Nokia hopes to make this continual touching more rewarding for those who are constantly fingering their phones.
A phone prototype currently in development gives one standard sensation of tactile texture whenever a finger is dragged across the phone. Later models are intended to have multiple tactile levels depending on which portion of the screen’s surface is touched.
In order to feel the sensation, the phone needs to be held in one hand and touched by the other, creating a closed biological circuit, and according to Nokia brain-man Piers Andrew, “this is not necessarily the most attractive sensation for some people”. While the concept of electrovibration is a constant, the level to which people are affected varies based on not only their own skin and body composition but things like moisture and temperature. This has the potential to make this device produce an “ooh that tickles” sensation for some and a “OH GOD OH GOD IT BURRRNS” for others. Still, the concept is touching. Source: New Scientist