Science Friction

Reflective Haptics

Haptic feedback. At the stroke of a pen.
We interact so much

with touch screens, yet feel so little. This project investigated a new way to create feedback for touch screen users: a stylus that provides frictional actuation. This stylus, or pen, has a ball on its tip which is connected to an electromagnetic coil. The coil serves as a kind of brake, enabling fine-tuned control of the force required to move the pen. This opens up the possibility of creating graphical user interface elements on the screen with varying surface properties and weights.

The frictionally-augmented touch pen could, for example, communicate the priority of news items by means of the force required to scroll to them. Items rated high by the community are easier to stop at. High-consequence operations (e.g. signing a contract) could be harder to perform with the pen than less consequential ones (e.g. signing a greeting card).

Our hands are skilful by themselves, but may need material resistance to operate at their full potential. Adding friction to elements within a piece of software (e.g. user guides within layout software) can help make manipulation of the digital space more realistic, leveraging the inherent skills of the human hand.