Disney has announced that it has developed a process that will enable flat screen users to experience the sensation of touching objects that appear on tablet and smart phone screens. All of this will take place without changing the appearance of the picture on the screen. The potential applications are legion, everything from “real” keyboards on flat screens to topographic maps to enhanced interactivity in video games. The applications for the blind are also mind blowing.

How is all of this possible?  Users will actually be “tricked” into thinking that they’re touching the actual objects. Obviously they won’t be touching them. The sensation will be generated using electrovibration to generate electrostatic forces that create friction against a moving finger. Disney has also invented an algorithm that will generate the electrovibrations of objects as they appear on the screen in real time. Very cool stuff indeed.

One potential downside is battery power. If your iPhone only stores enough power to last most of the way through the day, as does mine, the Disney innovation is likely to drain batteries even more quickly. There’s no way to see how it can’t. If Disney researchers can resolve the power issue, then I’d venture to say that they have a truly disruptive technology on their hands.

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