Touch Screens Look Pretty, Make Mistakes
The glass screen acts as a lens refracting the image of the keyboard and the keys seem to be slightly displaced from their actual position. You can’t correct this easily with software because it depends on the angle you’re looking at the screen from, your eyesight and even the amount of light. In theory, using a mechanical effect like vibration to tell you when you hit a key should let you type more quickly and more accurately, because you can learn to compensate for it more easily.
This is known as haptic (from the Greek word for touch) or tactile feedback and it’s been a subject of research for decades. In 1960, Professor Frank Geldard of the University of Virginia observed that unusual patterns of vibration attract our attention easily and could be used for alerts. There are two main types of haptics: vibrotactile feedback, which you feel under the skin as a vibration, and kinesthetic, which involves actual movement of the body.
Phones already come with a mechanical motor to vibrate them — 95% of them have a spinning motor and a few have a linear actuation motor that moves up and down like a speaker. Immersion’s VibeTonz technology can control either type of motor accurately enough to choose the speed and frequency of the vibration as well as how long it lasts, how strong it is and how it starts and stops. VibeTonz has eight different kinds of key clicks, for example, and the handset manufacturers can combine them. “With a full VibeTonz implementation, you can control it just like audio and we can do everything up to symphonies,” Mike Levin, vice president of Immersion, said.