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KDDI haptic touch screen pushes your buttons

KDDI and Kyocera are developing haptic touch screens that can make it feel like you're pushing buttons on a keyboard.

This KDDI smartphone has a pressure-sensitive haptic touch screen for games and other apps. Tim Hornyak/CNET

MAKUHARI, Japan--If you're always pressing the wrong icon on your smartphone touch screen, Japan's KDDI is working on a haptic screen that makes it feel like you're pushing a button instead of just a flat surface.

Prototypes shown off here at Ceatec 2011 respond to pressure and provide a sensation of clicking a keyboard button. The cellphone giant demoed potential applications including easier Web browsing and more interactive game playing.

The tech was developed for industrial applications by Kyocera, which was exhibiting a small tactile screen for industrial use at the trade show outside Tokyo. It consists of a touch panel sitting on an LCD with piezoelectric elements.

KDDI has shown off the tech before for text input at Wireless Japan, but Ceatec saw its first demo for Web browsing and video games.

Kyocera developed the screen, which uses piezoelectric elements. Tim Hornyak/CNET

On a prototype phone, I tried selecting a typical tiny text link on a browser and it felt like clicking on a small spacebar, giving me a clear sensation that I'd selected it. The browser responded to increased finger pressure by scrolling up or down more rapidly.

Similarly, in a video game, my avatar punched aliens with greater force depending on how hard I touched the panel. It felt like playing an old controller game.

"This is especially convenient for small links and lets you know you've chosen one," says Tomoaki Matsuki of KDDI's user interface engineering section. "The technology behind this is solid, so I think we can turn this into a product fairly soon."