Haptic, or tactile feedback devices offer
computer users a way to feel virtual surfaces, including graphs that can
represent large data sets.
Researchers from the French National Institute for Research and
Computer Science and Control (INRIA), the French National Institute for
Research and Computer Science and Random Systems (IRISA), the University
of Paris, and the University of Rennes in France have devised a way for
computer users to sense textures in the absence of a haptic interface.
Instead of giving a user literal tactile feedback, the technique
simulates tactile sensations by modifying the speed of a mouse cursor
as a function of the height of the texture the cursor passes over.
The technique could allow users to sense the textures of pictures
or drawings in painting or photo software, sense graphical user interface
and Web components like window edges, buttons and icons, and sense textures
in games, according to the researchers. The technique could also be used
to more easily visualize complicated data, including scientific data.
As a user moves the mouse cursor around the computer screen, the
cursor decelerates to indicate an upward slope in a texture and accelerates
to indicate a downward slope. The variations of the speed of the cursor
stand in for the effect of lateral forces when passing a finger over a
Practical applications could be developed now, according to the
researchers. The work was presented at the Computer-Human Interaction
(CHI) 2004 conference in Vienna, Austria, April 24 to 29.
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