Immersion (known for creative input experiences) demoed a fairly interesting new haptic experiment its working on dubbed TouchSense -- a virtual, iPhone-like keyboard that not only responds with sound and vibration, but some kind of feedback that recreates the feeling of actually moving your fingers across a keyboard. Details were scarce on the technology used, but during the demo at D7 the company showed off multitouch typing, and a new form of feedback which seems to create the sensation that there is a physical keyboard beneath your fingers. The functionality sounds eerily similar to the Haptikos technology that Nokia showed off way back in 2007. We're working on more details, but for now, feast your eyes on the pics in the gallery below.

Update: Press release after the break.
Gallery | 10 Photos

Immersion's multitouch, haptic keyboard


Immersion Demonstrates the Future of Mobile User Experience at The Wall Street Journal's D: All Things Digital Conference

TouchSense® technology makes virtual keyboards feel like mechanical keyboards; Immersive Messaging™ combines haptics and gesture for entirely new means of digital interpersonal communication

SAN JOSE and CARLSBAD, Calif., May 28, 2009 (BUSINESS WIRE) ¾ At The Wall Street Journal's D: All Things Digital conference, an annual gathering of the leaders of the digital revolution, Immersion Corporation (NASDAQ: IMMR), the leading developer and licensor of haptic (touch feedback) technology, unveiled two new concepts for next-generation digital user interfaces based on patented multi-modal haptic and gestural technology. Immersion is one of a select group of companies chosen to demonstrate new innovations at the annual event.

On stage with Wall Street Journal columnists and All Things Digital executive editors Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, Immersion showed how TouchSense technology transforms touchscreen keyboards into ones that feel like physical keyboards and work as effectively, and demonstrated for the first time a new form of digital interpersonal communication called Immersive Messaging.

Designed to make mobile communications more personal, natural and fun, Immersive Messaging is an experience that enables people to share emotions, thoughts, ideas and short pieces of information in real time through physical senses rather than simple text, using a shared physical space on their mobile device. A video demonstration of Immersive Messaging is available at http://www.immersion.com/immersive-messaging.html.

"Touch technology is the future of user experience for digital devices. By combining our proven haptics with advanced gestural technology, we are significantly advancing usability for all kinds of consumer electronics products, especially mobile phones and other portables," said Clent Richardson, chief executive officer of Immersion. "We're turning the science of haptics and gesture into revolutionary solutions for our partners and for consumers. The concepts we unveiled here today not only address fundamental challenges device makers face, but also point to an inevitable shift toward more natural, intimate and amusing digital connections to the people in our lives. Through our technology, our device partners can delight people in completely new and very personal ways."

TouchSense technology for touchscreen keyboards and Immersive Messaging are both first-of-their-kind exploratory concepts based on technology under development at Immersion, soon to be available for license and productization by operators, device makers and software developers.

New TouchSense Technology for Touchscreen Keyboards

Embedded in over 40 million phones, Immersion's TouchSense solutions have been improving mobile touchscreen devices for the top three leading phone manufacturers -- LG, Samsung and Nokia -- with the first handset shipping just over four years ago. At the conference, Immersion demonstrated a new prototype to address a pervasive problem of keyboard typing on touchscreen phones. According to research published by the Association for Computing Machinery and the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, current touchscreen keyboards are not as efficient as mechanical keyboards. In tests conducted to compare usage of touchscreen keyboards to their physical counterparts and to determine the impact of digital haptics on touchscreen typing, touch feedback proved to make typing more accurate and more efficient than typing with only visual and audio cues. Multi-modal feedback including the sensation of touch proved to significantly increase speed and reduce error rates for touchscreen typing.

The new TouchSense capabilities allow users to distinguish between keys through the sense of touch, and feel button press confirmations as keys are typed. These effects can be felt while typing with two fingers at a time. Especially when combined with visual and audio cues, Immersion TouchSense technology delivers a tactile keyboard experience like no other solution to date.

Immersive Messaging™

Immersive Messaging enables people to share emotions, thoughts, ideas and short pieces of information in real-time through physical senses rather than simple text, within a Shared Space on their mobile phone, using what Immersion and others call hapticons. The result is an entirely new means of digital communication. Immersion partners can use the technology, combining elements of TouchSense and gestural technology, to deliver new services that enable people to connect with one another remotely using natural spatial gestures and other non-verbal forms of communication.

Twiddle™ Technology

Immersive Messaging provides a Shared Space, or a place on a mobile phone, designed to help bridge the distance between remote people. Multiple people inhabit a Shared Space and can literally feel one another's presence with their fingertips. In a form of non-verbal communication, two people can twiddle, or simultaneously draw their fingers across touchscreens -- when their fingers "touch", they feel each other's presence through a haptic cue.

Hapticons

One way of communicating in a Shared Space is through hapticons – graphic, animated symbols created and sent using natural gestures such as waving or tilting the phone, or even blowing on the hapticons themselves. Hapticons are central to Immersive Messaging. They are active universal symbols onto which users can place their own personal, context-specific meanings. Among the hapticons demonstrated at the conference were a beating heart to convey affection; a nail to convey affirmation – created by making a hammer motion with the phone; and a champagne glass sent to multiple mobile phones and filled by the sender by simply making a motion as if pouring a bottle of champagne. Recipients on stage could see the glass filling on their devices, hear the pouring of the champagne, and feel the clink of the champagne glasses through tactile vibrations.

Hapticons can carry text or multimedia messages inside them. They are felt through distinct vibrations when created and as they move and bounce around the boundaries of the Shared Space, asserting their presence inside the phone and expressing the motion or status of the sender. For example, if the sender is walking, a hapticon will express this movement to the sender by bouncing within the shared space – a movement that is directly translated to the receiving device based on the motion of the sending device. If the sender is driving, a hapticon will appear to be accelerating or decreasing steadily in one direction.

About TouchSense Technology (www.immersion.com)

Immersion's TouchSense touch feedback technology more fully involves the sense of touch to make the user experience with digital and medical devices more efficient, intuitive, safer and more accurate. TouchSense solutions for medical device controls, programmable rotary technology, touchscreens, touch panels, touch surfaces, and handheld products incorporate numerous proprietary mechanical, electrical, software, and firmware technologies. Immersion can also assist partners with development and integration, making it faster and easier to realize the many benefits of touch feedback.

About Immersion (www.immersion.com)

Haptic (touch) technology is the future of user experience in digital devices. Founded in 1993, Immersion harnesses human touch to create user experiences that deliver a more compelling sense of the digital world. Using one of Immersion's adaptable high fidelity haptic systems, partners can achieve a competitive advantage and greater revenue opportunities with products that are more intuitive, satisfying, efficient, and safe. With Immersion technology, world-class companies can deliver improved user experiences in products such as widely popular video games, leading video console gaming systems, advanced automotive driver controls, and award-winning mobile phones. Immersion manufactures its own line of medical simulators that incorporate touch technology. These virtual reality training tools, installed around the world, enable practitioners to improve their practice of sophisticated life-saving surgical procedures prior to operating on patients. With over 700 issued or pending patents in the U.S. and other countries, Immersion is the leading innovator in touch-enabled user experiences that bring the digital universe to life.

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