This story is from the category Sensors
Date posted: 11/04/2010
Any high schooler sneaking a text message in class can confirm that fingering the right buttons on a cell phone is a cinch, even if it's hidden in your pocket. But how about on a glass touch screen?
By next year, these might feel like QWERTY keyboards, too.
A Sunnyvale, Calif., company called Artificial Muscle says its thin plastic "muscle" can push a glass screen ever so slightly, nudging back on a texting finger to create the sensation of typing on a real keyboard.
If the tactile feedback is realistic enough, the technology could add momentum behind touch-screen devices in a market where keyboard phones like the BlackBerry are struggling to keep customers from switching.
Here's how the muscle works: When you tap a phone lined with artificial muscle under the glass, an electric zap commands the muscle to flatten by a couple tenths of a millimeter, or about the thickness of a business card. With an inaudible "click," the glass pushes back like a physical keyboard does. However, the entire screen moves, not just the spot that's touched.
"Touch screens have taken away the sense of touch," said Artificial Muscle co-founder Marcus Rosenthal. Most of his friends have BlackBerrys because they can type faster, but if touch screens felt like keyboards, he thinks they'd switch.
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