Industry leaders are slowly finding touchscreens in new-model cars to be very distracting and can cause a loss of focus on the road. My car still has a cassette player, so this obviously doesn’t apply to me, but the minute controls and over-filled screens on many touchscreen-enabled cars can be a lot more frustrating than my current “two knobs and a button” setup. Therefore, a problem needs to be solved: how do you create a touchscreen interface that can be operated hands free?

Designer Matthaeus Krenn is testing an interface that may just solve this problem. In his words: “I propose a new mode that can be invoked at any time: It clears the entire screen of those tiny, intangible control elements and makes way for big, forgiving gestures that can be performed anywhere. In place of the lost tactile feedback, the interface leverages the driver’s muscle memory to ensure their ability to control crucial features without taking their eyes off the road.”

What Sparks Our Fire: Not following a trend, but rather native-izing an existing technology to the needs and constraints of drivers.

Do you think this is a useful concept, or would you prefer the old-school version?

Touch the World In Front of You

By their very nature, touch phone screens are flat, glossy surfaces that transfer visual and audio signals to your brain. This is what they’re meant to do, and for the most part they do it well. But can they be improved upon? The minds at the company behind Mickey Mouse and the multiplane camera are working to do just that.

Haptic interface is the transmission of touch information from a screen to a user’s hand. Disney is working on a flat touchscreen technology that will allow the user to feel the shape and texture of objects displayed on the screen. Officially known as “tactile rendering of 3D features”, the process is complicated, but essentially boils down to the premise that small electronic pulses can trick fingers into perceiving different textures and bumps of objects shown on the flat screen.

This, in and of itself, is not new information, but the implied applications of this technology are staggering when one considers how common touchscreens have become in today. “Touch interaction has become the standard for smartphones, tablets and even desktop computers, so designing algorithms that can convert the visual content into believable tactile sensations has immense potential for enriching the user experience,” according to Interaction Group director, Ivan Poupyrev.

Disney also believes that textured screens hold great potential for disabled users. Their demonstration video shows real-time impressions, where a camera attached to the screen captures an image and the user is able to feel it. This holds potential for creating accessible technology for blind individuals to help raise awareness of their surroundings in a physical way. This technology, while not yet available, leads one to consider the staggering implications of this technology.

What Sparks Our Fire: Adding haptic interaction to visual and audio takes us one step closer to a full, immersive user experience.

What industries do you think will adopt this new technology first?