If you've been avoiding all touch-screen devices because you love the feel of physical buttons, a new kind of tactile screen may have you singing a different tune.
Researchers at the Swiss Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) have come up with next-generation haptic technology that creates the feeling of pressing actual buttons on a touch screen.
"We're adding the sense of touch to tactile surfaces," said Christophe Winter, a Ph.D. student at EPFL's Integrated Actuators Laboratory (LAI) who is writing his thesis on the subject. "The term 'touch screen' that's used to describe current technology is really a misnomer, because they only provide visual and auditory feedback."
To achieve this, the scientists at the LAI used a piezoelectric material that vibrates when voltage is applied to it. The vibrations are undetected by human touch, but they create a thin layer of air between the touch screen and a user's finger to give the feeling of a raised surface.
By adjusting the voltage, the tactile feedback can change depending on which function you are using on the device, whether it be typing, gaming, scrolling through menus, or something else.
Designed for use on smartphones, tablets, computers, ATMs, vending machines, and more, the EPFL also envisions using the technology to help those with visual impairments interact with such devices.
Unfortunately, there's no word on when we might see this technology make its way to the real world, but I certainly welcome it because I still miss the physical buttons of my BlackBerry.