Yesterday I participated at the WCIT in Guadalajara and took some time visiting the Expo. I run onto the Fujitsu stand and I had the pleasure to try out a prototype tablet they had on show.
I have been reporting on research on haptic interfaces for some years now, and a few years ago I had a post on a research that aimed at using vibration of a surface as a way to fool our sense of touch into "feeling" a variety of textures, soft, hard, slippery, sticky, even wet and dry!
Well it turns out that Fujitsu has come up with a good industrial implementation of this principle by embedding a vibration generator using ultrasounds under a tablet screen having a very good resolution (they don't declare what it is but the sensation you get is really precise).
On the screen there was a safe knob and you could feel the tiny bumps you expect from that when turning the knob. They also had several images you can touch and one was clearly smooth, another was stick, another was rough. Apparently they haven't be able, so far, to model wet and dry but I guess it is just a matter of time.
Talking about time: they expect a commercial release of this haptic interface on their tablet within one-two years.
I have to say that the impression I got was of pure amazement: one thing is to write about something, quite another to touch and feel it!
I am looking forward to the time when this kind of interfaces will be taken for granted moving up one notch into a seamless boundary between the physical and the virtual.