Get the Windex ready… because touchscreens are about to take over the world.
At least that’s what companies like Corning (NYSE: GLW) and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) anticipate. Their visions of the future suggest that interactive touchscreens are making their way to everything from mirrors and countertops to dashboards and bus stops.
And based on how devices like Apple’s (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone and iPad have launched consumers into a glass display-fueled frenzy, I’d say these visions are pretty spot-on.
There’s one problem with flat touchscreens invading every aspect of our lives, though: The fact that they’re… well, flat!
You see, a study by Immersion (Nasdaq: IMMR) suggests that nine out of 10 people would prefer experiencing a tactile response when interacting with touchscreen technology.
Immersion has developed a technology that can deliver these tactile responses – like feeling a smartphone screen vibrate when you tap an onscreen key – but it falls short of replicating the sensation of a physical button.
That’s where Helsinki-based Senseg comes in…
Touchscreens That Touch Back
I first discussed Senseg’s innovative E-Sense technology in depth back in July.
Its E-Sense system is a new type of haptic feedback technology that harnesses electric currents to deliver more life-like tactile responses than what’s currently available.
More specifically, the technology mimics various sensations and textures by generating harmless electric charges that are sent through an ultra-thin layer of pixels attached to the screen. This creates a sensation between the finger and the display, giving the user the perception that they’re actually touching something real.
Or, as the company says, it turns “touchscreens into feel screens.” Cute.
But the question remains, will the technology hit the market soon enough to save us from a future covered in flat, lifeless glass?
Coming Soon: The Ability to High-Five Over Skype
Senseg says we could see tablets and smartphones using the technology hit store shelves within a year or two.
But since the company’s already showing off an E-Sense equipped tablet, I’m hoping that the technology makes it to consumers even faster than that.
Check out the video below to see CNET’s Rafe Needleman take E-Sense for a spin…
As you can see, the potential for this technology is really exciting.
Senseg’s Dave Rice mentions that developers can create games that incorporate touch-related features.
But the fact that the electrostatic field can already extend beyond touchscreens opens the technology up to more advanced applications.
Imagine, for instance, being able to give your college buddy an actual high five over Skype after your team wins the National Championship game. Or what about grabbing a handful of sand from the Sahara desert, just by visiting its Wikipedia page?
And better yet, “There’s really no limit to the size of a device that it can be deployed on,” according to Rice.
So we’re not just talking about tablets and smartphones. One day, we could be using giant, wall-mounted touchscreens to give distant relatives a hug, or desks that mimic the feeling of a real keyboard and mouse beneath our hands.
It’s no wonder Senseg received the title of “Cool Vendor” from Gartner in June!
As the research firm says, “Touch interfaces are becoming increasingly ubiquitous, and are key factors that are driving rich user experiences across many categories of devices… Manufacturers should explore the opportunities provided by Senseg E-Sense for new forms of tactile feedback for touchscreens that can differentiate and enhance user experiences.”
Bottom line: As touchscreens build momentum, you can bet Senseg’s innovative technology is going to be along for the ride.
We know that Toshiba is already on board. And although Senseg hasn’t revealed any other partners at this time, Rice says that it’s “moving quickly with some of our conversations.”
Sounds promising to me!
I’ll be sure to update you on any licensing deals – and potential profit opportunities – as they develop.