Haptic feedback was promised as the bridge between the UI flexibility of a touchscreen and the ease of use of buttons, but it's actually turned out to be of mixed effectiveness. One company hoping to change that is Senseg, who have developed a new type of solid-state haptic feedback system that uses an electrical field to stimulate the receptors in the fingertip that would normally feel vibration. The Senseg technology breaks down the display into an array of "tixels", each of which can be individually controlled and made to send out a different effect.
Video demo after the cut
That effect could be as straightforward as creating an on-screen slider which "feels" real, or as complex as making the display feel as though it was rippling like water. It doesn't rely on contact, either; the vibration or pressure can be felt from a short distance away. Senseg expect to have something on the market using their proprietary technology in around 18 months, with much of their effort going into reducing the size of the control technology. The company claims the system's "relatively simple" structure means that prices can be kept low, especially for larger scale installations or in larger production volumes.
It turns out CrunchGear spent some time with the Senseg team back in April, and shot the following video demo. They describe the sensation as if the display is textured, or notched as if a scroll-wheel, with a feeling of vibration caused by the electrical field: "a cross between rubbing soft sandpaper and getting a static electric shock."