IIT Madras' touchscreen technology enables users to feel textures

Researchers at IIT Madras develop iTad, touch display technology that allows users to feel the textures of an image as fingers move across the screen.

IIT Madras' touchscreen technology enables users to feel textures IIT Madras researcher feeling textures on the 'iTad'. (Source: Press Release)
Ishita Ranganath | Oct 17, 2022 - 3:23 p.m. IST
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NEW DELHI: The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras developed new touchscreen technology called the 'iTad' (interactive touch active display). Through a software, the researchers have enabled creation of different on-screen textures such as crisp edges, switches, smooth and gritty. Users can feel these textures from images as the finger moves across the screen.

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The research for iTad was led by M Manivannan, department of applied mechanics, IIT Madras. Merkel Haptics, a start-up incubated at IIT Madras Research Park has also been working with Touchlab researchers to take this technology forward.

The iTad has no moving parts, it has an in-built multi-touch sensor that detects movement of the finger on the screen while the software adjusts the surface friction. Through a physical phenomenon called 'electroadhesion', the software controls the electric fields and modulates friction locally as the fingers travel across a smooth plane. The key applications of this technology include automotive, consumer electronics, digital signage, home automation, medical, industrial and gaming, and an aid for visually challenged among multiple areas.

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iTad's touch-enabled surfaces can both receive touch input and provide touch feedback. Currently, touch feedback is only limited to ‘vibrotactile, vibrations that users feel on mobile phones. A resonating voice coil is used in devices to give smartphones a buzz of alerts and conformations. iTad on the other hand is a fully-integrated solution with a single controller and solid-state actuator.

Textures and haptic effects, on particularly big and curved displays, can be harmonized across size, shape and surface. iTad is a solution with multipleapplications. Every texture effect created through iTad can be felt with the swipe of a finger.

Explaining how ‘iTad’ differs from contemporary technologies, Manivannan said: “Currently computer touchscreens can only sense your position of your fingers on the screen, but offers no feedback. When we add feedback, the interaction with computers becomes experiential. iTad is unlike anything else on the market today because it combines multi-touch sensing with haptics on the same layer.”

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