iPhone and others – are those touch really?

by Saurabh Gupta

One of the few things I use to charm others with was my ability to send out a fully worded text message without even looking at my phone. Can I do that on any of the touch phones? There is no reference point to start if you are not looking directly at your touch screen. Saying that, its no easy task if we are using a phone with no t9 support though but its achievable nevertheless.

So aren’t we losing a sense-full ability in our phones or any such devices for matter. My phone I believe has to meet more than my eyes. It has to appeal to me and talk back in one or more ways. It does that by ringing and vibrating for one. May be it could do more. The idea of touch with a tactile feedback is making rounds for sometime, for a technology enthusiast like me this is next big thing. I started thinking about it when a simple survey on an iPad made my index finger sour.

I went on researching on what are the options. It wasn’t a surprise but such a need is more pertinent to blind folks right now and therefore there is bunch of research or work going on for blinds to interact with well primarily iPhone. Basic idea behind most of the work is to overcome the physical or more to say hardware limitations is by using well designed software to either interpret touch gestures, or shake gestures (using accelerometer). One such is mentioned here – http://faculty.washington.edu/wobbrock/pubs/nish-09.pdf. And then there is this exciting technology from blindtypes (their websites is broken). Another such product is brought to us by – http://swypeinc.com/

However, they are just trying to make up for what we lack in hardware technology. So how about if we have screen which could manifest itself into pointing brailles. It wouldn’t have to be sharp and coded so much to manifest all the alphabets or all the objects on the screens.

Apple has been thinking in this direction already. No surprises they have patented the idea too – linked here. Honeywell is also working on similar idea but a more complicated version – linked here. And then there’s this simple device demonstrated here. The last one is most interesting of all. This, finger mountable, device vibrates your finger nails to give perception of touch even on plain touch screens. This is definitely a brilliant idea, specially for a person with visual disability. Its hard for regular sighted person to take this around just to get sense of touch.

I will keep a good look on this front… let us see what it brings about.