Tech

Researchers Developing 3D Smartphone Screen That You can Actually Feel

The future is here! Well, not really. Not yet, anyway. But can you imagine a phone that is so smart it is Matrix-like or capable of 3D projection in four dimensional space. We already have augmented reality technology compatible in smartphones so phones with 3D technology is just a stone’s throw away. Furthermore, we are already on the way to using our skin as a touchscreen with the Cicret Bracelet (https://cicret.com/wordpress/) so an animated 3D touchscreen would be a step up.

The Cicret Bracelet

The Cicret Bracelet

That is the hope of many and also one Swansea University professor of computer science Matt Jones.

“What we want to do is to see if we can [bring alive the flat and dull screens] so you can feel and touch and manipulate them with perhaps not even having to look down and being drawn into that dark screen.”

Streaming videos, playing games and using a multitude of other apps with the conventional method have resulted in ‘text neck’ syndrome (straining of the neck while texting using hand-held devices) in most users. Read here on how to avoid or reduce neck pain. (http://www.spine-health.com/conditions/neck-pain/how-avoid-text-neck-overuse-syndrome)

The device the Swansea team envisions will have all the features of a smartphone plus tactile controls like buttons and sliders that physically emerge from the screen to help the user spend less time staring down.

“What we’d love to be able to do is have similar form factors, so not hugely thick devices – still attractively packaged, still sleek and seductive. But with this added feature; that your hard screen can dissolve in front of your eyes and up comes some controls. Those controls could be physical sliders that you could put your fingers on and around and actually physically move. There could be a dial that comes out of the screen and, without even having to look around and down at the screen, you’ll put your fingers down and turn the dial. And when you’ve finished, it will just dissolve back again, seamlessly and beautifully,” added Jones.

When the project began in June 2016, the team was awarded over £1 million in funding from the Britain’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. And at the end of 3 1/2 years, the team hopes to have a range of concept designs where this technology could be viable or developed.

Making the morphing phone screen a reality needs a lot of funding so Jones hopes that the gathered data would encourage other industries to get on-board with the technology to take it to the next level.

In the meantime, in collaboration with the University of Grenoble in France, the team has built several basic prototypes that show how pixels on a phone screen could influence the ones adjacent when manipulated by a person’s finger.

While there are other organisations researching how users can ‘feel and interact’ with virtual objects, Jones believes their approach takes this new technology one step further.

“We want to go one more step in terms of magic and make a real object appear and disappear,” said Jones.

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Adrin S

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