The Sensual Computer: High Touch, High-Tech
Computerworld - How does your computer feel today? No, I'm not asking about its state of cybernetic health but about whether it's giving you any tactile feedback or manipulative capability through your fingers. Touch is the latest to be added to the list of human senses a computer can address. It's called haptics, from the Greek haptesthai, meaning to grasp or touch.
One consistent thread in the development of computing is the continuing expansion of I/O capabilities. In the beginning, you input data into a computer by flipping switches, and its output was in the form of flashing lights. As the technology developed, input came from punch cards, paper tape, magnetic tape and keyboards, while output became human-readable words and numbers on paper or a display screen. Voice input and text-to-speech reading are still in the development phase, and it looks as though haptics may be the next big thing after that.
The earliest haptic devices for computers were braille readers. With them, a blind user can move his finger along a line of metal pins that form a braille representation of the current on-screen line of text. Although they're very useful, these devices are limited to rendering text.
There are now a few more devices that use haptic technology. Among the earliest, developed a few years ago, were joysticks and similar gaming controls that employed force feedback, offering varying resistance to movement, depending on what was happening on-screen.
The newest devices are haptic mice from Fremont, Calif.-based Logitech Inc. that use a vibration-generating motor to simulate different surface textures and materials. They're relatively simple and inexpensive, employing new technology from Immersion Corp. in San Jose. More than just a frill or a thrill, "the addition of tactile feedback to computer mice can significantly enhance user performance," says Jack Dennerlein, assistant professor of ergonomics at Harvard University. "Our laboratory studies show that people complete basic cursor-targeting tasks faster with tactile feedback."
But there are more sophisticated haptic tools available. Perhaps the best-known is the Phantom from SensAble Technologies Inc. in Woburn, Mass. This device employs a moving arm that ends in a stylus for the user to hold or a thimble into which the user inserts a finger. These are used in conjunction with software called the FreeForm Modeling System.
As the user moves the device's arm, a cursor moves around the screen. Using the device, if one encounters a "solid" object in the on-screen universe, the arm is stopped. Moving along a surface provides tactile information about the surface's texture, and the user can readily and intuitively
- The 20 Best iPhone/iPad Games of 2013 So Far
- 9 Steps to Build Your Personal Brand (and Your Career)
- 7 Consumer Technologies Coming to an Enterprise Near You
- 11 Signs Your IT Project is Doomed
- A walking tour: 33 questions to ask about your company's security
- 15 social media scams
- The 7 elements of a successful security awareness program
With the promise of big data (solving the unsolvable problems, informing better decision making, creating new products and services, discovering patterns and acting on them, etc.) on the horizon, what has really changed? Does this mean that everything we know and do with not-so-big data should be tossed?
- IT Certification Study Tips
- Register for this Computerworld Insider Study Tip guide and gain access to hundreds of premium content articles, cheat sheets, product reviews and more.
- Case Study: Hospital Turns to Email Archiving Solution to Ensure Regulatory Compliances
- Read this case study to learn how a cloud-based email archiving solution enabled the hospital to meet government mandates and helps avoid thousands...
- Case Study: In-the-Cloud Email Service Replaces Three Point Products
- Read this case study for more information on a comprehensive in-the-cloud email service to help replace three point products.
- Case Study: Simplifying the Transition to Exchange 2010 with Email Management Solutions
- Read this case study to learn how a cloud-based email management solution greatly simplified the company's transition to Exchange 2010.
- Intelligent Systems: A Prescription for Health Care Transformation
- Facing an onslaught of regulatory changes and market pressures, health care providers are grappling with how to transform existing services as part of...
- The Importance of Network Time Synchronization
- Your network is time stamping files, email, transactions, etc., while your server logs are recording the transactions in case you need that information.... All Healthcare IT White Papers
- Becoming An Analytics Driven Organization
- Join us on Tuesday, June 18, 2013, 11:00 AM EDT and learn how your agency can create an analytics culture that will enable...
- 3 Reasons Why Sepaton is the World's Fastest Backup Solution
- Leading analyst, Storage Switzerland learns how Sepaton backs up and deduplicates massive data volumes while maintaining the industry's fastest performance - all in...
- Enterprise File Sharing: All You Need to Know
- Security. Scalability. Control. These are just some of the many benefits of enterprise cloud file-sharing that you'll discover in this KnowledgeVault, packed with...
- Bridging HTTP and FTP with FileXpress Internet Server
- What if you could take an FTP server on your internal network, and allow external users (partners or customers) to securely access it...
- MFT and FileXpress - An Overview
- Business users and applications exchange files on a regular basis. File transfer is a core part of the flow of business activity. All Healthcare IT Webcasts