Editor's Comment: Dealing with feedback in next-gen devices is a touchy subject (pun intended). A lot can be said for approaches like the spring-loaded display on the Blackberry Storm. The fact is, people still intuitively expect actuation travel from keys and buttons.

(From TechnologyReview.com) - Touch-screen technology has become wildly popular, thanks to smart phones designed for nimble fingers. But most touch screens have a major drawback: you need to keep a close eye on the screen as you tap, to make sure that you hit the right virtual buttons. As touch screens become more popular in other contexts, such as in-car navigation and entertainment systems, this lack of sensory feedback could become a dangerous distraction.

Now researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed buttons that pop out from a touch-screen surface. An air pump can manipulate a latex layer that covers the screen. When the pump is off, the screen is flat. The design retains the dynamic display capabilities of a normal touch screen but can also produce tactile buttons for certain functions.

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Image Credit: Chris Harrison, Scott Hudson