Microsoft Wants Touchscreens To Feel Like Keyboards

Kate Patrick Contributor
Font Size:

Microsoft says we’re doing touchscreens wrong — apparently we should always feel like we’re pressing down keys and buttons on a keyboard. Tapping touchscreens just isn’t enough.

“The way we design computers today,” Microsoft researcher Hong Tan said on Microsoft’s website, “it would seem that people only use their eyes.”

According to Tan, people should be using more than just their eyes when they operate a computer. It’s not just about enjoyment, it’s also practicality and accessibility. Tan believes we can more efficiently use computers if we engage more of our senses.

“With sight alone, most people are perfectly fine interacting with computing devices today,” Tan said. “But how much more efficiently, how much more enjoyably, can we interact with computers? How much more accessible can we make them? We won’t know until this becomes taken for granted.”

Tan is currently working on technology for Microsoft that will implement the theory. Using electrovibration, Tan is experimenting with computer haptics, “providing key-click feedback on flat keyboards and creating feelings of texture and traction on glass surfaces.”

“The thing that’s really, really cool,” Tan said, “is to take a smooth piece of glass but make it feel different—it’s almost magic.”

According to Tan’s research, haptic keyboards are “far superior” than the average touchscreen, but right now, touchscreens-that-feel-like-real-keyboards aren’t a reality.

“It’s all up to the imagination right now,” Tan said. “We haven’t really designed anything that has become mainstream enough.”

Follow Kate on Twitter