Techno Trends

The big ideas that are changing everything

"Sense"ational Technology

Over the next few years, we can expect to interact with our electronic devices using all of our five senses. For example, mobile devices are already learning to “see” better with apps like Google Goggles, which can identify landmarks, translate text, or save contact information from a business card simply by taking a photo. Their ability to “hear” has also improved in recent months, with voice recognition applications like Siri getting better every day. According to a recent report by IBM, the next big thing will likely be technology that allows users to “feel” objects being displayed on their touch screens.

Today’s touch panels typically don’t provide any positive tactile feedback, but a new technique, known as haptic technology, creates the sensation of varying texture when a user touches the screen. Disney’s TeslaTouch transfers oscillating electrical fields to the finger, while Swiss researchers use changes in vibration to simulate the feel of different materials. The result is an experience that brings the virtual world and real world closer than ever. For example, when shopping online, you would be able to feel the texture of a shirt before you purchase it.

For information: Jessica Hodgins, Director, Disney Research, 4720 forbes Avenue, Lower Level, Suite 110, Pittsburgh, PA 15213; phone: 412-297-4020; email:; Web site:
Yves Perriard, Director, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Integrated Actuators Laboratory, Rue Jaquet-Droz 1, P.O. Box 330, CH-2002 Neuchatel 2, Switzerland; phone: +41-32-720-5310; fax: +41-32-720-5735; Web site:

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