Photo of a tablet displaying the Tanvas app screen with
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Tanvas: Feel Textures on a Touch Screen

Tanvas is redefining touch by enabling you to feel what you see on a touchscreen.

Tanvas is a company which is using “surface haptics” to bring the feeling of unlimited textures to flat, physical surfaces such as your phone or tablet. Surface haptics add a realistic sense of touch; touch a digital illustration and feeling the life-like textures on the screen. Touch the rhino image and feel the rhino’s leathery, rough skin.  Imagine the unlimited possibilities for blind students!

Two preschoolers playing with the Tanvas app: app screen displaying a picture of a rhino with a textured square depicting the rhino's skin.

Tanvas uses electrostatics to control friction and create virtual touch.  This technology modulates friction, the ability to both sense finger position and to provide haptics simultaneously.  Scroll your finger across the screen and feel grass, cobblestones, bricks and wooden bridges; tactually distinguish silk from corduroy and straight lines from curvy lines.

Two preschoolers playing with the Tanvas app: app screen displaying a textured picture of a stuffed corduroy dinosaur.

Tanvas is being developed for mainstream purposes, such as online shopping for clothing; rub the screen and feel the fabric texture. See the articles, Feel Fabric Through Your Touchscreen with Tanvas and TanvasTouch Replicates the Feel of Fabric, Guitar Strings, and Other Objects. Tanvas was showcased at the Consumer Electronics Show in Los Vegas (CES 2017); however, Tanvas has not been released.

The video below starts with adults trying the Tanvas on a iPad followed by preschoolers touching and tactually identify items on the Tanvas on an iPhone.

By Diane Brauner

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