Over at our cellular site Phone Magazine we've reviewed a few touchscreen handsets promising haptic feedback, and always found them to be a bit underwhelming; generally they just vibrate a little whenever you tap the screen, rather than giving any sort of accurate feedback to where you've pressed. Japanese Broadcasting Corp (NHK), however, have come up with a true haptic touchscreen. Unlike the phones, which rely on a simple vibration motor, NHK's display is made up of an array of tiny pins that physically press through to the user's fingertips.
An optical touch panel recognises where individual finger-presses are made, and the system can both respond to contact or actually guide a user round a dynamically-changing GUI by creating graphics and icons made up of raised pins. That would be of particular use to blind users; the pins are precise enough to create braille writing. Fingers could then be led from one option to another via a trail of dots.
The project is a result of collaboration with Tokyo University, as part of a commission titled "Multimedia Browsing Technology for the Visually Impaired". Previous haptic displays have had trouble accurately recognising whereabouts the user has touched the screen. NHK will demonstrate the system at the NHK Science & Technical Research Laboratories Open House 2008, which runs from May 22 to 25, 2008.