What is Electrovibration?

Touch technology has profoundly changed the way people engage with information, and the burgeoning tablet market points to a consumer that tends toward the ease of a natural user interface over a mouse and touchpad for their personal computing devices. Discovered in 1954, electrovibration refers to the process when a finger is dragged across a conductive, insulated surface, creating an electrostatic force that results in a rubbery, sticky, bumpy or vibrating sensation. Applied to today’s mobile devices, the phenomenon of electrically induced vibration is expected to herald the next evolution of touchscreen technology, offering the potential to feel the content or media one is viewing. Finnish company Senseg is at the forefront of the move to apply this haptic technology into smartphone and tablet prototypes, although electrovibration is also being explored by Disney Research. The future of “feelscreen”-enhanced devices offer great possibilities for deeper interaction with educational and recreational content, and with it an accessibility that caters to users with physical and mental disabilities.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • For Science students of all ages, interacting with complex diagrams and visual systems is difficult both on paper and digitally. By adding the extra sensation of touch into the equation additional layers of data can be included without additional visual over-stimulation. Early rudimentary haptic feedback was generally used to sense changes in the digital content with an on/off approach but looking forwards, we will be able to replicate various textures as well. One example could be the difference between visualizing pressure rings on a weather map and in stead using haptic feedback, feeling their intensity and relationships to each other.- erik.wilensky erik.wilensky Nov 4, 2015
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(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

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(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative inquiry?

  • I can see haptic technology having a very important helper role in the new form factors we may see in the near future. Traditionally we interact with technology head on, a screen directly in front of us. In the near future that may be a digital pen which changes function depending on how we grip it or a flexible LCD screen on the surface of a beaker. Haptic technology will allow us to interact and control technology without having to visualize the locations of controls or points of interaction. - erik.wilensky erik.wilensky Nov 4, 2015
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(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • geomagic.com offers a haptic device with allows users to interact with virtual 3D objects. This is currently used mainly for practicing medical procedures virtually and well as for manipulating complex digital systems and models.- erik.wilensky erik.wilensky Nov 4, 2015
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