Just Looking for Some Touch

As cool as they are, we’re just not satisfied with touchscreens. Not tactile enough. No physical input or feedback. Are we not human beings? Do we not feel?

We’ve seen various attempts at making a more physical touchscreen over the years. Here’s the latest from a couple of folks at MIT’s Media Lab.

Dubbed Obake, after a Japanese shapeshifting monster, and touted as a “2.5D” display, it involves interacting with an elastic surface by pulling it, prodding it, poking it, pushing it, and pinching it. Pretty much everything we naturally do with semi-inflated balloons.

The surface is a rubber-like membrane on which is projected interactive imagery. The set-up allows for a wider range of gestures than glass touchscreens, and it looks extremely satisfying to play with.

So pretty cool, even if it also seems non-intuitive, complex, and constrained in application. Mostly, though, it makes me want to bang on it with a pair of drumsticks.

Also, I get suspicious when I see demos of new tactical touchscreens that just involve manipulating a topography map.

Of course, the point of the project and demo isn’t to throw Obake on a tablet. It’s just to start pushing boundaries in touchscreen technology.

And prodding them. And poking them. And pinching them.