Innovative touch screen technology will take the ‘try before buying’ approach up a notch, giving users the ability to feel tangible objects prior to making purchases.

Cynthia Hipwell, the chair of Texas A&M’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, is the lead researcher in research that may allow people to feel the textures, buttons slide and knobs screens,’ Hipwell wrote in a an announcement.

The technology uses multiphysics – the fusion of processes or systems with multiple physical fields that are occurring simultaneouslyand that change based on the things the user is viewing and the environmental conditions.

It also uses surface energy and nanotexture in the touchscreen, which allows the technology to suggest suitable textures for an item like the softness of an upholstery or the stitching on an item like a sweater.

Cynthia Hipwell, the chair of Texas A&M’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, is the leader of research that will let you actually feel the textures, buttons, knobs and slides on your screen.

We’re looking at electro-wetting effects (the forces that are induced by the application of an electric field) electrostatic effects and changes in the characteristics that the fingers have, physical properties and the geometry of the surface of the device. We’ll also look at the contact mechanics, fluid motion charging transport, in essence, everything happening in the interface in order to determine how the device can be improved in a way that is more secure and better perform the finger,’ Hipwell explained.

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Our goal is to build predictive models that allow designers to design devices with the maximum amount of haptic effects and sensitivity that is minimal to environmental and user variation.’

While the technology is just beginning to develop, Hipwell predicts consumers will begin to see some of the early components built into touch screen devices in the coming years, with a few early products in the pipeline already.