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Making sense of 'TapSense'

Scientists at Carnegie Mellon have developed touchscreen technology that distinguishes taps from different parts of the finger.
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Written by Amy Kraft, Weekend Editor on

Finger taps, flicking and sliding. That’s how we use smartphones and tablet touchscreens. Now computer scientists have figured out how to make the touchscreen experience more user-friendly by taking advantage of the dexterity and anatomy of our digits.

Chris Harrison and colleagues from Carnegie Mellon developed TapSense, a device that recognizes the different sounds made by different parts of the finger -- the pad of the finger, knuckle, fingernail, and tip of the finger -- to allow users to perform different functions. A microphone attached to the screen picks up the sounds and then computer software classifies them. So a knuckle can act as a right click or a fingernail can open a new web page.

TapSense could be used for any application on a touchscreen that has a lot of functions in a limited space: think Photoshop for the iPad. A person can draw with the fingertip, shade in with a knuckle tap, zoom in with the pad of the finger, etc.

"TapSense basically doubles the input bandwidth for a touchscreen," Chris Harrison, a Ph.D. student in Carnegie Mellon'sHuman-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII) said in a statement. "This is particularly important for smaller touchscreens, where screen real estate is limited. If we can remove mode buttons from the screen, we can make room for more content or can make the remaining buttons larger."

And the extended touchscreen abilities go beyond the finger. TapSense can also detect different materials on the touchscreen like wooden pencils or plastic ones. This would allow people using different materials to make notes on the same touchscreen, with each person's writing appearing in a different color or in some other individualized way.

Harrison says TapSense could eliminate the need for extra buttons "so you can do more things in a smaller space."

Helping Your Fingers Do More on Touchscreens  [Inside Science]

Photo via flickr/IntelFreePress

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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