Touch Screens With Feeling

Engineers add texture to touch-screen devices

2 min read
Touch screens with feeling
Image: Michel Tcherevkoff/Getty Images

One of the most sought-after new features on mobile devices is the touch screen. But that name is a misnomer, according to a group of researchers at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Ill., who point out the obviousthat these displays offer minimal ­tactile feedback. But suppose touch screens could touch you back: You could ”feel,” say, the edges of the buttons on a virtual keypad or the links on a Web page.

Recently, at the IEEE-­sponsored World Haptics Conference 2009, in Salt Lake City, Michael A. Peshkin and J. Edward Colgate, mechanical engineering professors and codirectors of Northwestern’s Laboratory for Intelligent Mechanical Systems, described their candidate for such an enhanced touch screen--a device they call the Tactile Pattern Display, or TPaD. It can create the illusion of texture on an unadorned piece of glass.

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Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar

You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

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