The device would one day allow doctors to conduct body scans and gamers to virtual environments.
Microsoft has begun work on a new touchscreen that displays 3D images that can be touched and controlled via tactile feedback.
Combining an LCD flat panel screen with force sensors and a robotic arm that moves the screen back and front, the new device will allow users to interact with the display by controlling resistance levels applied to a person’s fingertip.
When user touches the screen, the arm lightly pushes back, and then moves back as they push against the screen, while pulling fingers back would make the screen also move back towards them.
Microsoft researcher Michael Pahud said that users’ finger is always aware of motion.
"As your finger pushes on the touchscreen and the senses merge with stereo vision, if we do the convergence correctly and update the visuals constantly so that they correspond to your finger’s depth perception, this is enough for your brain to accept the virtualworld as real," Pahud said.
The system’s inbuilt software will simulate the shape and weight of displayed objects in the air, while also allows the size and perspective of the images to change as per the movement to create a 3D effect.
Microsoft Research Natural Interaction Research group researcher, Mike Sinclair, said that it’s a very lightweight force that pushes back to follow the finger and maintain constant contact.
"At first, it feels as though you are touching a hard wall that’s easy to push, but you get used to it very quickly because it supplies only a few ounces of force against the finger," Sinclair said.
"Since touchscreen interactions require the user’s finger to remain in contact with the surface, the main challenge of the idle mode is to ensure that the screen remains in contact with the fingertip regardless of the direction that the fingertip is moving, either away or toward the user."
While the device is in the research stage, the US software maker claims the device can be deployed for medical and gaming uses and enable exploring virtual environments.