TOUCH-FEEDBACK MOUSE allows PC users to feel a virtual surface. As the user moves the cursor across the screen, a small motor in the mouse responds to software signals embedded in the program or Web page. Image: PHILIP ANDERSON
Imagine living with just two of your five senses: vision and hearing. That's the sensory-deprived state of personal computing today. PCs communicate with their users almost exclusively via images and sounds, ignoring all the other cues that humans rely on to perceive the world. Admittedly, interacting with your computer through the senses of smell and taste may not be absolutely essential. But now PC users can try the iFeel mouse, a device from peripherals manufacturer Logitech that adds the all-important sense of touch to desktop computing.
The human brain is exquisitely hardwired for touch. Anatomy textbooks often include a grotesque-looking diagram known as the homunculus, which distorts the human figure to show how much of the brain's sensory processing is devoted to each body part. Because large areas of the cortex interpret signals from the palms and fingers, the hands of the homunculus are enormous. This generous neural capacity allows us to sense minute variations in pressure and to detect barely perceptible vibrations, contributing to our remarkable dexterity.
This article was originally published with the title Touchy-Feely Computing.