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Rough Screen: Fujitsu Tablet Simulates Textured, Slippery Surfaces

Your next tablet could literally give you a rough time. At Mobile World Congress, Fujitsu showed off a prototype tablet that uses ultrasonic vibrations to simulate different textures, including slippery areas, edges on virtual objects and callous surfaces. While most Android tablets and phones offer haptic feedback that makes you feel like you've hit a key and a few even simulate textures, Fujitsu says its solution is different because it uses variable ultrasonic vibrations to create friction with the user's fingers.

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We had a chance to test out Fujitsu's prototype tablet and were amazed by how life-like its demo textures felt. When we ran our fingers over a photo of an alligator, its scales felt rough and bumpy, becoming more so as they grew larger. When we used an interactive demo of combination lock, we could feel the lock subtly click as we turned to different numbers, just like it would in real life.  A sand demo felt course as we swiped dust away from a stone carving, which also felt textured. 

Several of the demo screens on Fujitsu's tablet had areas where our finger felt like it was either falling off an edge or hitting a coarse point that slowed our movements. For example, a Japanese harp demo made our finger feel just a little bit of resistance as we swiped past each string, simulating the feeling one experiences from running a finger across a taut string. 

Fujitsu says that, by varying the frequency of its ultrasonic vibrations, it can create the illusion that you are touching a real object. It can also simulate a slippery area by vibrating in such a way that it creates a slim pocket of air underneath your fingers.

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Perhaps our favorite of all of Fujitsu's demo apps was the DJ turntable. When rotating one of the on-screen records back and forth with a finger, the surface felt slippery, much like a real vinyl record. However, when we ran our finger off the edge of the turntable, we felt a bump, just as if we had slid off. 

There's no word yet on when this new technology will make its way to market, the company hasn't even given its prototype a proper name, instead calling it a "protoype haptic sensory tablet." However, it has managed to impress us with a completely flat touch screen that feels like all kinds of real world objects.