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Real world touchscreens

Technical Q&A with Heather Culbertson from the Haptics Group at the University of Pennsylvania

DA: What kind of problems do touchscreens pose for real-world applications?

One of the major problems with touch screens is that they require you to look at the screen in order to press any of the buttons.

Most likely you are able to dial the phone or change the radio in your car without looking if the device has traditional buttons, but this is very difficult to do with touch screens. There is no way to feel the position of buttons and the buttons are missing the distinct clicks that signify pressing and releasing. This causes touchscreens to require a lot more of the user's attention which can lead to distracted driving among other undesirable consequences. It also commonly leads to the incorrect pressing of buttons that has increased the necessity of autocorrect when texting or writing emails.

Furthermore, using touchscreens is often an unsatisfying experience because everything feels uncharacteristically smooth and slippery. For example, turning the page on an e-reader feels nothing like turning the page in a real book. If there was a way to make the objects on the screen feel more realistic, it would create a much more immersive experience for users.

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