Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Input Devices News Technology

A Touch Screen With Morphing Buttons 160

Posted by Soulskill
from the mighty-morphin-power-button dept.
Al writes "Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have created a touch screen that can also produce physical buttons. Graduate student Chris Harrison and professor Scott Hudson use a projector and infrared sensor below the screen to illuminate it and make it touch-sensitive, and the physical buttons are created using air pumps below the surface. They say this type of screen could be particularly useful when a simple, flat touch-screen is too distracting, for example in a vehicle dashboard."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

A Touch Screen With Morphing Buttons

Comments Filter:
  • by ActionJesus (803475) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @10:43AM (#27760001)

    3..2..1..

  • by JCSoRocks (1142053) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @10:47AM (#27760051)
    I hate the lack of tactile feedback on touchscreens. If this really solves that problem I'd love to see it used in ATMs and self checkouts.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Thelasko (1196535)

      I'd love to see it used in ATMs and self checkouts.

      My first thought was that it would be perfect for the Tesla Model S. [gizmodo.com]

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by reashlin (1370169)
        My first though was that is would be the only option for the Tesla Model S.
      • by Jay L (74152) *

        Or GPS in-dash navigation units. I have an Alpine with "second-generation touch feedback", which basically means it can buzz at one of two frequencies when you press a button. Still doesn't make it easy to use.

        Automotive touch screens need buttons that you can not only feel, but feel FOR. Just like the radio knob. If pneumatics is a way to do that, I'm all for it - and I don't much care about battery life, since it's presumably only active when the car is on.

        Touchscreens aren't just for your phone, peopl

    • by SharpFang (651121)

      You won't see them in ATMs.
      This seems entirely non-vandal-proof.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Diamon (13013)

      Just hope your PIN doesn't have a zero in it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sexconker (1179573)

      You know what else fixes touchscreens?

      Real buttons.

  • Full of hot air (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BurzumNazgul (1163509) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @10:50AM (#27760087)
    If you read the article this isn't nearly as impressive as it sounds. The buttons are in a static configuration and need an air compressor to rise. They're going to need to come up with a more flexible method of tactile feedback if they want to create a useful technology. Back to the drawing board!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by vrmlguy (120854)

      This is just Gen-1. I can imagine an array of small buttons, closely spaced, that can be raised en masse to simulate larger buttons. Use a piezoelectric fan to provide the air to the buttons one at a time, just like you direct electrons to a CRTs phosphers.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by SatanicPuppy (611928) *

        To me its just another component to fail, and touchscreens have enough problems already. Is it cool enough to really rate the extra maintenance? Just get used to no buttons.

        • by PJ1216 (1063738) *
          Its worth isn't in how "cool" it is but if it makes using touch screens on vehicle dashboards safer to use. The airbag was just another component to fail, but they install them anyway.
    • That's my first reaction too, but then I realised that you could still do a lot of stuff with a static array of buttons if you were able to dynamically change the labels.

      Course, there's still the size concern... obviously much better suited to an auto dash than a cell phone, in its current state.

    • They're going to need to come up with a more flexible method of tactile feedback if they want to create a useful technology.

      Perhaps some mobile slime [slashdot.org] under the touch-surface membrane?

      If they could ever get it fast enough.

    • Re:Full of hot air (Score:5, Interesting)

      by King_TJ (85913) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @11:51AM (#27761015) Journal

      Yeah... I thought the same thing - although granted, this is just "proof of concept" stage, right now.

      It's also worth considering, though, the fact that this system allows for another "button state" you don't generally have with physical buttons. You have "raised", "flat" (no air compressor running), AND "convex" where the compressor is creating a vacuum, sucking the surface inwards.

      Maybe that could be put to creative/good use?

    • It will probably be some silicon like material that will shrink or expand with more or less current. Either that or a layer of air/water between two surfaces, where the bottom surface can attract or repel the top one. Both would be preferable, so you could have check boxes or something like that dip and navigation buttons stick out.

      The trick will be making it taut enough to feel right, or just training people not to mash down on the buttons like monkeys.

    • Actually, Nokia took out a patent on a very similar device like this about 6 months to a year ago. The big difference was they used "tubes" of air (in both directions) in order to raise any given part of the screen.
    • by V!NCENT (1105021)
      How about the static pixels on your flatscreen? (or am I an insensitive clod for not thinking about the possibility you stil have a CRT?) We just need more tiny compressors, that's all...
    • by DJRumpy (1345787)
      My thought exactly. Even the visual representation looks rather stupid not to put too fine a point on it. You would think with all of these marvelous advances in technology they could simply use a material that expands under voltage and layer it on the screen. Need a button at these coordinates? Just shoot some low voltage via a grid system to that area and cause them to rise a bit from the plane.

      Does such a material exist or is it being researched and what's the delay in getting it out there?
  • by jdgeorge (18767) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @10:55AM (#27760167)

    Of course. You can't just use a simple flat touchscreen in a vehicle dashboard. It would be impossible for a blind person to find the controls.

    • by busman (136696) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @11:01AM (#27760265)

      Of course. You can't just use a simple flat touchscreen in a vehicle dashboard. It would be impossible for a blind person to find the controls.

      and this is bad? I'm all for stopping blind people from controlling vehicles. See enough of them on the roads in Ireland already ;-)

      • by owlnation (858981) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @11:18AM (#27760549)

        I'm all for stopping blind people from controlling vehicles. See enough of them on the roads in Ireland already ;-)

        Ah, sometimes it's hard to moderate comments. Having driven in Ireland, I've no idea whether this is "funny", "informative" or "insightful". We need more options really... and probably more opticians too.

        • by Repton (60818)

          The universal laws of driving skill:

          1. Drivers everywhere in the world are terrible.
          2. You either live or have lived in the city with the world's absolute worst drivers.
          3. You are a great driver, as is everyone you know personally.

          Strange but true.

      • There are no blind drivers in Ireland.

        Blind drunk is a different matter.

    • by camperdave (969942) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @11:12AM (#27760445) Journal
      It would be impossible for a blind person to find the controls.

      Trust me. If they can find the braille on the keyboards of drive through ATMs, they can find the braille on the control panel of a car.
      • Braille on drive-through ATMs is for blind passengers, not blind drivers. :p

        • by camperdave (969942) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @11:57AM (#27761083) Journal
          Braille on drive-through ATMs is for blind passengers, not blind drivers.

          Are you saying that a blind person can't use the ATM if they are a driver? Nonsense! How would the machine know if they are a driver or not?
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by vlm (69642)

            Braille on drive-through ATMs is for blind passengers, not blind drivers.

            Are you saying that a blind person can't use the ATM if they are a driver? Nonsense! How would the machine know if they are a driver or not?

            Want to really screw around with people, try driving thru an ATM backwards so the passenger can use the ATM. Some of the driveway clearances and curves can be challenging when done in reverse. Also as a bonus you get to stare at the driver behind you, which can vary from pleasant (if they're hot), to disturbing (if they continue to pick their nose anyway despite being face to face).

            • by seinman (463076)
              If you really want to piss people off, use a busy ATM, then pull up just two feet so the rear driver side passenger can use it after you. You wouldn't believe how many people flipped me off and honked at me for pulling that one.
            • Somebody told me they went through a McDonalds drive through backward at about 3 in the morning. LOL.

          • Easy... they made it to the drive-through, right?

  • by Reality Master 201 (578873) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @10:57AM (#27760201) Journal

    I'm getting a lot of other people's accounts - including their private, unpublished emails and mod points.

    WTF?

  • More distractions. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Reason58 (775044) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @10:58AM (#27760227)

    They say this type of screen could be particularly useful when a simple, flat touch-screen is too distracting, for example in a vehicle dashboard.

    I know we are obsessed with multitasking more and more, but no. Almost every automobile "accident" is caused by one or more people simply not paying attention, and I don't think we need to give them even more stuff to play with while driving.

    If a touch screen is going to be too distracting for some situation, then mighty morphin power buttons are not the answer. The answer is wait until you are done with whatever you are doing, then use them.

    • by Smivs (1197859)

      Almost every automobile "accident" is caused by one or more people simply not paying attention, and I don't think we need to give them even more stuff to play with while driving.

      Slightly off-topic, but yes. On a recent drive up the M1 (UK Motorway) I was amazed at the number of drivers with sat-navs switched on. Why? You CANNOT get lost driving up the M1. How many robotic voices were saying "Continue following the road ahead, Continue following the road ahead ,Continue following the road ahead"? The world's gone mad!

      • by Chelloveck (14643)

        My sat-nav doubles as an MP3 player. I have it on so I can listen to music (well, podcasts as often as not), not necessarily because I need directions.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Gizzmonic (412910)

      The answer is wait until you are done with whatever you are doing, then use them.

      Sorry, I'm not going to wait. I'm sorry the Prius has a shitty touchscreen design so that I have to look away from the road to mess with the radio or A/C. It's my hot hippie girlfriend's car and obviously she can't drive while she's doing a line of coke off my dong. I simply cannot climax while driving unless I'm blaring "Heat of the Moment" by Asia, so I've got to change it now...ah yes, much better.

  • by Space cowboy (13680) * on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @11:03AM (#27760297) Journal

    Well actually not I, but Apple have - see this patent filing story [appleinsider.com]

    In fact, they mention using air as the actuator, as far back as 2007.

  • by snarfies (115214) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @11:04AM (#27760305) Homepage

    http://www.mydigitallife.info/2007/11/07/nokia-introduces-haptikos-touch-feedback-technology/ [mydigitallife.info]

    The technology in this article isn't scalable, and the "touch screen" isn't transparent, it just has stuff projected onto it from below. The Nokia solution involves piezo sensor pads under the screen and engineered in a 0.1mm movement in the screen itself.

    Not that I will ever purchase a phone that doesn't have actual physical buttons on it for when (not if, WHEN) the touchscreen breaks down. I'm just saying.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Red Flayer (890720)

      Not that I will ever purchase a phone that doesn't have actual physical buttons on it for when (not if, WHEN) the touchscreen breaks down. I'm just saying.

      And I'm never purchasing a phone that doesn't have a touchscreen on it for when the physical buttons break down.

      Yes, touchscreens have durability issues to be worked out, but I still firmly believe that in the long run, fewer moving parts == better.

    • I've seen treos where the keypads went before the touch screen, at least on HTC made phones (like the treo 750 and 755) the touch screen might not be the first point of failure. That being said, I can type text on the physical qwerty button much much faster than I've ever seen anybody correctly enter text into an iphone. (PS, no, I do not use the shortened text-speak that's so popular in text messages and those damn phone commercials)
    • by pimpimpim (811140)
      There is no corrugation on the nokia screen, it just clicks. So no, they're not doing it better. The airpump system is probably not the best solution, but at least the effect of individual buttons is there.
  • by brasselv (1471265) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @11:06AM (#27760341)

    It's just a proof of concept, ok.

    But the concept itself suffers a major limitation: any pressurized, pneumatic-based approach will consume too much power to be eligible for a portable device - where battery life is usually key.

    Not coming to your iPhone anytinme soon.

    • by SharpFang (651121)

      Unless you use initially pressurized gas as "fuel".

      The "charger" may contain a pump that fills a small container with pressurized air - enough to last one battery charge. Then as GUI elements are required, the pre-charged container is being depleted. You don't need much of the air.

      Also, a phone with a built-in lighter.

  • First question I have though is what kind of a tactile feedback is possible? Would this eventually make a keyboard that I'd want to use for hours at a time?

    -jcr

  • The theme song is in my head... what's worse, it's the WRONG song! It's actually the theme music to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!

    "Mighty Morphin' Power Buttons! Mighty Morphin' Power Buttons! Heros with a bash shell!"

  • This is the kind of tech I though RIM would research before jumping the touchy-feelie screen bandwagon. But noooooo, they'd rather the Blackberry be an iPhone me-too...
  • The ideal interface for the car is a mixture of buttons, touchscreen, and voice. Buttons for selecting the device to control down the side, more buttons for the major device modes down the bottom, gigantic touchscreen landing areas for controlling the major subfunctions. (Optional) voice recognition could be (again, optionally) modal as well to minimize the potential for erroneous recognition. The biggest problem people usually make with the interface is to put too much shit on it at once. This means the us

    • The ideal interface for the car is a mixture of buttons, touchscreen, and voice.

      I'd like a steering wheel and some pedals, but each to his own.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        I'd far prefer my car to drive me to my destination, so I can focus on something else. I'd prefer PRT even more, though.

  • by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Wednesday April 29, 2009 @12:01PM (#27761137)
    Am I the only one who read about these buttons and immediately imagined a full-screen braille reader for visually impaired users?
  • Actually, I'm sure that many people can say they've come up with something like this. What's cool is that these people are commercializing it. My project idea involved putting small B/W LCD displays inside an array of physical push-buttons. Along with another larger fixed display, we had a fairly flexible device whose buttons could mean anything.

  • This is one of those "amazing advances" that just isn't either.

    I'm sorry for the guy dumping all the effort into this, and maybe its just me, but I have 3 dozen of these ideas a day, I spend a fleeting 15 seconds thinking about implementation, and dismiss each for the types of reasons that are already mentioned here (to which I'll add a couple of my own).

    clunky- thicker and less elegant than a glass display

    non-durable, repeated use and puncture vulnerable

    fixed layout, defeats the purpose of touch-screens

    vis

  • Many years ago I tried to design a machine that would display text on a Braille readout, one line at a time. I figured it would be possible to use tiny solenoids to raise and lower the dots, but I didn't (and still don't) have the engineering expertise to build such a thing. Seems like this technology ought to be able to do it.

The typical page layout program is nothing more than an electronic light table for cutting and pasting documents.

Working...