Fujitsu Haptic Technology

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You can always count on Fujitsu to show off some interesting tech at Mobile World Congress. Last year, it was a GPS cane. This year, a touchy-feely tablet. Let me explain.

The company has developed a prototype tablet with new haptic technology that allows you to feel different textures on the touchscreen. For example, if you were to drag your finger over a picture of your beach vacation, you’d be able to feel the grains of sand, or you could run your finger over your beach towel and feel the softness of the fabric.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because Fujitsu isn’t the first to try this. Other companies, such as Senseg and Immersion, offer similar technologies using electrical components to simulate the feeling of different textures.

Fujitsu, on the other hand, uses ultrasonic vibrations to achieve the process, which the company says allows it to create a more realistic effect of touching something smooth or rough.

To simulate sensation of something slippery or smooth, ultrasonic vibrations from the surface of the display create a high-pressure layer of air between the screen and a person’s fingertip to help reduce friction and create a floating effect.

For rough objects, the tech quickly cycles between high and low friction to create the sensation of something bumpy.

Some examples I tried at the booth: Playing a Japanese harp, petting a crocodile and brushing sand away to reveal a stone carving. Some experiences felt more realistic than others.

The coolest was probably the Japanese harp. As I ran my finger over it, it actually felt like I was strumming the strings. On the sand and statue image, the screen created small vibrations to mimic the texture of sand, and when the stone carving was uncovered, the screen felt smooth, almost velvety.

The crocodile example was interesting. It definitely felt like I was running my finger over a bumpy surface, and the sensation varied depending on the size of scale, but it didn’t feel like I was actually touching a crocodile (not that I’ve ever petted a crocodile).

Fujitsu sees its haptic technology being used to enhance online shopping, so people can feel the fabric of things they’re buying, and enhance services on applications.

Fujitsu plans to bring its new haptic technology to market in 2015. Though it showed off the tech on a tablet, a company spokesperson said they have not decided on specific products for launch but envision that anything with a touchscreen is a possibility.

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