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SBIR Phase I: Electrostatic Normal Force Modulation for Haptic Touch Screens

Award Information

National Science Foundation
Award ID:
Program Year/Program:
2012 / SBIR
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
Solicitation Topic Code:
Solicitation Number:
Small Business Information
Tangible Haptics, LLC
1711 Darrow Ave. Ste. 3 Evanston, IL 60201-3477
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Woman-Owned: No
Minority-Owned: No
HUBZone-Owned: No
Phase 1
Fiscal Year: 2012
Title: SBIR Phase I: Electrostatic Normal Force Modulation for Haptic Touch Screens
Agency: NSF
Contract: 1215440
Award Amount: $150,000.00


This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 1 project describes technologies that address the lost sense of touch inherent with touchscreens. Found on billions of products ranging from smartphones to automobiles, touch sensing technology has grown increasingly sophisticated in recent years, while touch output haptics has lagged. Most devices have either no touch output or crude vibrotactile confirmations. Thus, virtual keyboards are much more difficult on a lifeless touchscreen and visual demands are great even where they shouldn?t such as in automobiles and applications for the visually impaired. The proposed research addresses these deficiencies by developing a novel haptic technology based on production of lateral force to create haptic effects such as the edges of keys. Prior research proved lateral forces can be controlled via coordination of electrostatic and vibrational effects. This Phase I research will focus on the electrostatic component. An innovative electronic design and use of high-k dielectric materials will lead to low-power, mechanically robust, and manufacturable haptic solutions for touchscreen environments. The investigation will focus on wear and defect mechanisms, and quantify the tradeoffs between transparency, resistive losses, actuation power and voltage versus the dynamic range of lateral forces that can be produced. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is creating a true haptic feedback that will enable touchscreen devices to communicate through the sense of touch rather than just sight and sound. The prevalence of touchscreens began decades ago but really exploded with the introduction of smartphones. Worldwide double-digit growth of touchscreens is expected for the next five years as automobiles, computers, and many other applications continue to adopt this versatile interface. While consumers are attracted to the flexibility of touchscreens, they have simply learned to deal with the shortcomings including a lack of touch sensory. The proposed haptic technologies create multi-touch lateral forces rather than simple vibrations that produce palpable virtual objects and dynamic effects such as keyboards, dials that click, and strings that stretch. This technology could replace buttons and dials on an ultrasound machine to allow technicians to feel tangible controls but allow for an easily cleanable surface. Automobile drivers could feel for radio preset buttons and count the number of roads before their destination through the sense of touch. It is this expansion of communication that will be valued by users, thus creating a true demand for haptics which has to this point been an afterthought.

Principal Investigator:

Gregory P. Topel

Business Contact:

Gregory P. Topel
Small Business Information at Submission:

Tangible Haptics, LLC
1711 Darrow Ave. Ste. 3 Evanston, IL 60201-3477

EIN/Tax ID: 611651300
Number of Employees:
Woman-Owned: No
Minority-Owned: No
HUBZone-Owned: No