Microsoft Research has filed for a patent on a touchscreen that would have a thin layer of plastic that would change topography based on the image.
In the patent application, Microsoft describes the concept:
A light-induced shape-memory polymer display screen is provided herein. One example display device includes a display screen having a topography-changing layer including a light-induced shape-memory polymer. The display device further includes an imaging engine configured to project visible light onto the display screen, where the visible light may be modulated at a pixel level to form a display image thereon. The display device further includes a topography-changing engine configured to project agitation light of an ultraviolet band towards the display screen, where the agitation light is modulated at a pixel level to selectively change a topography of the topography-changing layer.
In English, Microsoft is talking about a texture Surface computing system. The topography would expand or contract based on light and touch and be designed for large tables more than smartphones and tablets.
Microsoft's concept isn't new. As the New Scientist notes, Nokia, Carnegie Mellon and Senseng all have similar technologies.
The big question here is whether these efforts will pan out anytime soon. A tactile touchscreen could be very impressive. Getting them to market may be a different story entirely.
This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com