Feel Your Text Messages

from the once-more...-with-feeling dept

Researchers in Germany have developed a new system to feel text messages. It’s almost as bizarre as it sounds. It’s not quite braille for mobile phones. The idea isn’t to translate entire messages but to give general feelings based on specific keywords, which are then sent to tiny fingertip sensors to indicate the general meaning of a message. Thus, it can be used to indicate a meeting between two people at a certain location by sending the message “you, me, location.” Of course, the learning curve on this seems likely to make sure it’s not used very widely. You need to learn to understand the tactile “melodies” it gives, you need to program it to understand certain words and associate them with specific tactile signals, and you need to tell others messaging you to use the specific keywords that set the thing off. And, of course, you have to wonder how many times you’ll be in a situation where you can’t just glance at the screen and get the point of the message instead of needing to read the message by feel. The researchers seem to recognize it isn’t entirely practical – saying that it can be used for art-installations or for basic communications for those who are deaf or blind, rather than as a true replacement for basic text messaging. Still, it seems like one potential interesting use is moving more into the traditional haptics/feedback world, where it could be used to give people specific signals. For example, in a car, if a lane departure warning system senses the driver is drifting out of their lane, the steering wheel could return a specific “tactile melody” that would alert the driver to move back into their lane – though, again, perhaps a audio alarm would be more effective.

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