Haptic feedback, such as the slight vibration imparted to the finger by a touchscreen phone, is definitely better than no feedback in the absence of real buttons, but there are ways it could be improved.

One such method being investigated by researchers in Korea and the US involves creating a flexible haptic surface that can provide feedback to more than just a fingertip.

Whole-skin stimulation

Working together, the team from Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea and the University of Nevada has built what it calls a flexible tactile display.

The group’s Ig Mo Koo explains: “When you apply a normal device to a non-flat surface like human skin, it is impossible to stimulate the whole skin through its shape. In the case of a wearable tactile display, however, it can be applicable to many kinds of surfaces without the limitation of stimulus area because of its flexibility.”

Remote possibility

In operation, electrical charges generated by whatever the input device may be cause film in the device to contract in one specific spot, thus putting pressure on the part of the body touching there.

The researchers believe it’s so accurate it could work as an electronic Braille readout for blind users or as a surgical tool for remote operations.

We can think of plenty of other applications for a ‘feely-phone’ but let’s leave those to our imaginations for now, shall we?