Cursor speed shows virtual bumps

June 2/9, 2004

Haptic, or tactile feedback devices offer computer users a way to feel virtual surfaces, including graphs that can represent large data sets.

Researchers from the French National Institute for Research and Computer Science and Control (INRIA), the French National Institute for Research and Computer Science and Random Systems (IRISA), the University of Paris, and the University of Rennes in France have devised a way for computer users to sense textures in the absence of a haptic interface.

Instead of giving a user literal tactile feedback, the technique simulates tactile sensations by modifying the speed of a mouse cursor as a function of the height of the texture the cursor passes over.

The technique could allow users to sense the textures of pictures or drawings in painting or photo software, sense graphical user interface and Web components like window edges, buttons and icons, and sense textures in games, according to the researchers. The technique could also be used to more easily visualize complicated data, including scientific data.

As a user moves the mouse cursor around the computer screen, the cursor decelerates to indicate an upward slope in a texture and accelerates to indicate a downward slope. The variations of the speed of the cursor stand in for the effect of lateral forces when passing a finger over a texture.

Practical applications could be developed now, according to the researchers. The work was presented at the Computer-Human Interaction (CHI) 2004 conference in Vienna, Austria, April 24 to 29.

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