three fingers with faces painted on them.

Fingers can feel texture on a flat surface when they feel a sideways force.

Credit: ©

Written by Beth Askham

Imagine if your touchscreen had texture. Pages, pictures and games would all come to life under your fingertips.

Researchers are finding out ways that we can trick out brains into thinking a flat touch screen is a world of texture.

They are doing it by understanding the science of touch. We know that when our fingertips feel a sideways force, even on a flat surface, our brain interprets this as a bump or ridge in the surface. Not only that, when two of these ‘bumps’ are felt by two fingers, our brain can mix them together, thinking we are feeling one connected bump.

To find this out, researchers put two finger pads on a track, and studied people sliding these pads with their index finger and thumb. By bumping each pad at different times, the researchers made people feel either two bumps, or one connected bump.

Roberta Klatzky, an America researcher who studies how our brains make sense of the world, said that these studies ask, “How does your body and mind interpret something flat and ‘see’ it as having shape and texture?”

The science of touch is called haptics, and this kind of technology called haptic technology.

“Our findings will help us and other researchers figure out how to design haptic technology to produce certain tactile effects,” said Michael Peshkin, an American professor of mechanical engineering.

Tactile information on touchscreens would benefit blind users, gamers, artists and more.

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