Whereas previous screens produced only an illusion of texture, Microsoft proposes producing a real texture, using pixel-sized shape-memory plastic cells that can be ordered to protrude from the surface on command.[...]
Microsoft's named inventor, Erez Kikin-Gil at the firm's Redmond campus in Washington state, says in the patent that the idea is aimed at large table-sized computing displays such as the company's Surface, rather than phones or tablets.
A projector built into the Surface displays a computer image onto the table top from below. As the user touches it, infrared reflections from their fingertips are detected by cameras beneath the table and used to pinpoint the position of the finger and lend touchscreen capability.
In the patent, Microsoft proposes coating the display with a light-induced shape-memory polymer. This becomes hard and protruding when one wavelength of ultraviolet light is transmitted at a pixel, and soft when another wavelength hits it. By modulating these wavelengths, texture can be created, the patent claims.
It is this difference which sets Microsoft's design apart from other variable surface touchscreens.
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