Touchy Feely

Haptics ‘feely’ technology is on the rise and is looking promising for the publishing industry.

Haptic technology, or haptics, is a tactile feedback technology that stimulates a user's sense of touch by applying forces and vibrations to them.
 
Earlier this year LG released its 19-inch display e-paper newspaper and although it looks a bit floppy it seems to be where a lot of technology is heading. Sony are working on a flexible credit card-shaped device, Hewlett Packard on a roll-up computer screen and Samsung have developed a touch screen phone that uses tactile feedback to simulate the feeling of pressing a button. 
 
But so far there is no evidence on the shelves for what this could mean for publishing. Bridgestone has developed the first flexible e-reader, but even this is merely bendy to touch, rather than boasting any particular benefits for the user.

However, Toshiba’s recently trialled ‘New Sensation UI Solution’ allows users to feel textures of different materials such as wood, stone or metal using E-Sense technology from Senseg. Disney is also in the race to exploit the sense of touch. They are developing a similar technology and Doctor Ivan Poupyrev, a senior researcher at Disney, told the BBC that the sensations are created by “applying a high voltage to a transparent electrode on the glass plate - in this case people will feel a texture on the glass. By varying the frequency and amplitude of the signal we can create different sensations." (see full article at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/10373923.stm)
 

This branch of haptics could be added to current e-readers to allow users to feel the texture of the ‘paper’ they are reading off and feel the turn of a page. Which could go some way to winning over those sceptics who ‘like the feel of a book’. It could also do wonders for the interactivity of children’s e-books. ‘Feely’ books, with a whole range of different textures, could be digitalized or textures could be added to children’s book apps for regular fiction or non-fiction.