Haptic Interfaces, Digital Trust and Seniors Online

Computers may soon let people sense the texture of objects or feel how they fit together thanks to a haptic, or touch-based interface.

by / June 2, 2008
digital hand archival from GT

Sense of Touch

Computers may soon let people sense the texture of objects or feel how they fit together thanks to a haptic, or touch-based interface, developed at Carnegie Mellon University.

The device uses magnetic levitation and a single moving part called a flotor, much like a joystick, to let users perceive textures, feel hard contacts and notice even slight changes in position.

Electric current flowing through embedded wires in the flotor interact with powerful permanent magnets underneath, making the flotor levitate. A control handle attached to the flotor lets users move the handle like a computer mouse, but in three dimensions, with six degrees of freedom - up/down, side to side, back/forth, yaw, pitch and roll.

Optical sensors measure the flotor's position and orientation, and this information controls a virtual object's position and orientation on the computer display. As this virtual object encounters other virtual surfaces and objects, corresponding signals transmit to the flotor's electrical coils, resulting in touch-based feedback to users. - Carnegie Mellon University

Building Trust
Market research firm TNS Sofres' Digital Trust Barometer, which surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults, revealed that users are wary of e-commerce because of digital security threats.

When asked whom they trust as a source of reliable information on digital security, 42 percent of respondents believed friends and family are the most reliable source for security advice. After relatives, 27 percent of Americans considered companies specializing in digital security an accurate and reliable source of information.

Banks, at 7.6 percent, were a distant third as a trusted information source.

Online Health Care
Three-quarters of U.S. consumers ages 65 and over are comfortable with telemedicine, "telepharmacies" and other online tools that extend doctors' reach. But more than 80 percent of caregivers still think they will struggle to get seniors to use the technology.

Steady Growth
This year, a projected two-thirds of the U.S. population, or 194 million Americans, will be online, according to e-marketer. By 2012, the firm predicts this will increase to 217 million people.

Anything for Chocolate?
Women are more likely than men to give away their passwords to total strangers, according to a survey by Infosecurity Europe. Forty-five percent of women versus 10 percent of men were prepared to give their passwords to market research impostors with the lure of a chocolate bar as an incentive for completing the survey. The survey was conducted in London as a social engineering exercise to raise awareness about information security. In 2007, 64 percent of people were prepared to give away their passwords for a chocolate bar, this year it dropped to just 21 percent.


Karen Stewartson

Karen Stewartson served as the managing editor of Government Technology for many years. She also contributed to Public CIO and Emergency Management magazines.