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Sense-ational! New tablet lets you feel texture on images

  • This week's 5 most fantastic innovations and ideas!
  • Haptic technology: 'feel the texture of sand as you run your fingers across your iPad or laptop screen.'
  • Also this week: You, as a tiny, 8-bit action figure!
Sense-ational! New tablet lets you feel texture on images

Editor's note: Karyn Lu is Turner Broadcasting's manager of New Media Insights & Inspiration. Each week, she scouts out amazing innovations, cutting-edge technology and, well, just really awesome stuff. Before it goes mainstream, it's going to be one of her 5 Things From The Future!

Imagine this: You are doing some online shopping, and when you reach out to "touch" that dress on the screen, you can actually feel the silky material beneath your fingertips.

Or you're looking at a photo of a gorgeous beach while daydreaming about your next vacation, and you can actually reach out and feel the texture of sand as you run your fingers across your iPad or laptop screen.

It sounds like magic, but the technology may not be far off. In fact, Fujitsu may be releasing a tablet with this capability as early as 2015.

The magic here is haptic technology. There are different approaches to achieving the illusion of real-world tactile sensibility, and everyone from researchers at UPenn to Disney Research have been playing in this space for some time. Fujitsu is using ultrasonic waves, which vibrate the air just above a screen to essentially trick your fingers into feeling some sort of texture.

For example, to simulate something smooth or slippery, a high-pressure layer of air would be used to reduce friction and create a floating effect. Or to create the sensation of something bumpy, the technology would cycle between high and low friction.

According to a Re/Code reporter who actually got to play with the demo: "The coolest was probably the Japanese harp. As I ran my finger over it, it actually felt like I was strumming the strings. On the sand and statue image, the screen created small vibrations to mimic the texture of sand, and when the stone carving was uncovered, the screen felt smooth, almost velvety."

From virtually touching fabrics to stones -- just think about the sheer possibilities for the future of immersive, interactive experiences! Online shopping will be a lot more fun, for starters. Our devices are already becoming ubiquitous and getting smaller and more seamlessly integrated into our homes, clothing, even our bodies. When they can give us tactile feedback based on what we are seeing and doing, touchscreens will never be the same again -- and technology will become ever more invisible, more intimate, more human.

Here are the rest of this week's amazing Things From the Future!

• You, as a tiny, 8-bit action figure.

• "Blowing hair" digital subway ad reacts in real time to trains' arrivals.

• Brilliant Netflix hack pauses your show or movie when you fall asleep!

• Fitness tech, including a heart rate sensor, will be built into the new Samsung Galaxy.

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