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
- 15 Non-Certified IT Skills Growing in Demand
- How 19 Tech Titans Target Healthcare
- Twitter Suffering From Growing Pains (and Facebook Comparisons)
- Agile Comes to Data Integration
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
While it may seem a contradiction in terms, digital automation tools may make possible a new level of personalization in medical care.
- 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.
- Healthcare Firm Ramps Up for Claims Processing Spikes
- Huge increases in claims processing loads and stringent SLAs for Medicaid patients prompted Molina Healthcare to enhance their IT infrastructure with VCE.
- Patient Portals: A Platform for Connecting Communities of Care
- Connecting patient health data across the care continuum is essential to achieve improved care, increased access to personal health records and lowered costs.
- 3 Ways Clinicians Can Leverage a Patient Portal to Craft a Healthcare Community
- With a bevy of vendors offering patient portal solutions, it can be challenging for a hospital to know where to start. Fortunately, YourCareCommunity...
- Is Your Big Data Solution Production-Ready?
- Read "Is Your Big Data Solution Production-Ready?" now, and discover best practices and actionable steps to implementing a production-ready big data solution.
- Pay-as-you-Grow Data Protection: IBM Tivoli's Full-featured Data Protection Suite for Small to Medium Businesses
- IBM Tivoli Storage Manager Suite for Unified Recovery gives small and medium businesses the opportunity to start out with only the individual solutions... All Healthcare IT White Papers
- Webinar: Building a Big Data solution that's production-ready Big data solutions are no longer just a nice-to-have.
- Meg Whitman presents Unlocking IT with Big Data During this Web Event you will hear Meg Whitman, President and CEO, HP discuss HAVEn - the #1 Big Data platform, as well...
- The New Way to Work Knowledge Vault This Knowledge Vault focuses on how, in today's increasingly virtual world, it's more important than ever to engage deeply with employees, suppliers, partners,...
- Getting Ready for BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10.2 Find out how BlackBerry® Enterprise Service 10 helps organizations address the full spectrum of EMM challenges, while balancing the needs of both the...
- Containerization Options: How to Choose the Best DLP Solution for Your Organization This webcast outlines a framework for making the right choice when it comes to containerization approaches, along with the pros and cons of...
- All Healthcare IT Webcasts