‘Tactile TVs’ may be coming; what about tactile Macs and iOS devices?

British scientists are developing technology that will allow viewers to smell, taste and touch the sensations being played out on screen, reports the Independent. So why not “Feelyvision” for Macs and iOS devices?

Researchers at the University of Sussex are exploring techniques that will allow viewers to sense “raindrops” on their hands or wind on their face, using ultrasound beams and airflows, to heighten the emotional impact of scenes they are watching on television, says the Independent.

This “tactile TV” will help broadcasters create programs that “capture the audience’s full attention and immerse them in a multisensory world,” according to Dr Marianna Obrist, Reader in Interaction Design at Sussex, whose Computer Human Interaction lab is leading the research. The team is working with Ultrahaptics, a Bristol start-up that has developed technology that uses ultrasound to enable users to receive “tactile feedback” projected on to their bare hands, without needing to wear gloves.

Since I’m convinced that it’s just a matter of time before we get a Mac with a touchscreen, imagine if it also had technology that let you “feel” the weapon in your hand when gaming or “feel” the texture of a leather iPhone case you might wish to buy.

Imagine watching a movie and being able to “smell” what the characters onscreen are smelling (which, if food is involved would be good; if a dead body is involved, not so good). Imagine being able to “taste” the food being prepared on a cooking show. 

With touch technology in widespread use, I can understand how the “touch” part of a “tactile TV” would work. I’m less sure how the smell and taste functions would be implemented. 

However, Obrist has been awarded £1 million by the European Research Council for a five-year project to expand the research into taste and smell, as well as touch.

The “SenseX Project” will aim to provide a multisensory framework for inventors and innovators to design richer technological experiences.

If tactile TVs do arrive in the future, perhaps tactile Macs, iPhones, and iPads will soon follow.