Microsoft`s tactile app could spell end of mobile keypads

Microsoft has designed a new application to construct a tactile touchscreen.

London: Microsoft has designed a new application to construct a "tactile" touchscreen – a display that uses technical tricks to convince users they are actually touching the ridges, bumps and textures of a displayed image.

Microsoft proposes producing a real texture, using pixel-sized shape-memory plastic cells that can be ordered to protrude from the surface on command.

But it is not yet known how feasible the idea is.

"Creating well-defined bumps on a touch surface is in many ways the holy grail of text entry on touch devices because it would enable touch typing at much faster speeds than on touchscreens today," New Scientist quoted Patrick Baudisch, a display interaction expert at the University of Potsdam in Germany, as saying.

"There would be no more reason for mobile keypads – they would simply be emulated when necessary. That could effect massive change in this field."

Conventional touchscreens have limitations - they can be noisy: some of the frequencies are in the audio range, so a buzz can be heard.

Microsoft``s named inventor, Erez Kikin-Gil at the firm``s Redmond campus in Washington state, says in the patent that the idea is aimed at large table-sized computing displays such as the company``s Surface, rather than phones or tablets.

A projector built into the Surface displays a computer image onto the table top from below. As the user touches it, infrared reflections from their fingertips are detected by cameras beneath the table and used to pinpoint the position of the finger and lend touchscreen capability.

In the patent, Microsoft proposes coating the display with a light-induced shape-memory polymer. This becomes hard and protruding when one wavelength of ultraviolet light is transmitted at a pixel, and soft when another wavelength hits it.

By modulating these wavelengths, texture can be created, the patent claims.