Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo

 

Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

Building blocks: A top layer of acrylic has shapes corresponding to different buttons cut out of it. A passage into an air chamber below allows air to flow in and out.

Because the system is pressurized, the pressure information can itself be used as an input, Harrison says. For example, if the screen were used to control an MP3 player, a person could press a button harder to scan through radio stations or songs faster. While many touch-screen displays can also register different levels of pressure, the glass or rigid plastic used doesn’t provide any tactile feedback.

Rob Miller, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, says that this type of interface is particularly likely to find its way into car dashboards. “When you’re driving a car, you’re situationally impaired,” he says. “Your eyes need to be on the road, not hunting for the right button and watching whether you pressed it right.”

In a small user study involving the Carnegie Mellon display, testers found the pneumatic buttons as easy to use as static ones while taking a simulated driving test. They also glanced at the pneumatic buttons only as often as they glanced at the physical buttons.

Due to its pneumatic nature, the system is currently fairly large, but Harrison says that he is trying to find ways to shrink it. “You can’t get a pump inside a cell phone,” he says, “but one possibility is to have a balloon and squeeze it using a conventional motor.”

3 comments. Share your thoughts »

Credits: Chris Harrison, Scott Hudson
Video by Chris Harrison, Scott Hudson

Tagged: Computing, touch screen, multitouch, haptic, computer-human interaction, computer interface

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives

Close

Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me