Technology Transfer SSC Pacific
Enhanced Touch Pad

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Allows users to manipulate the graphical elements of a graphical user interface and receive tactile feedback

The U.S. Navy seeks to commercialize U.S. Patent 7,245,292 (Apparatus and method for incorporating tactile control and tactile feedback into a humanmachine interface). 


A conventional pointing device, such as a mouse, allows computer graphical user interface (GUI) items, such as windows and icons, to be moved across the computer desktop, but provides limited feedback and functionality. A given action must be determined entirely through observation of the computer screen, because no information or feedback is provided to the user through the pointing device itself. Touch screens seem to remedy some of these deficiencies; however, they do not provide any tactile feedback to the user, and waste screen space due to the requirement that each button be roughly the same size as a human fingertip. Thus, the flow of information from operator to computer, as well as from computer to operator, is less than optimal.   

The Technology

SSC Pacific has developed an enhanced touch pad using micro-electro-mechanical (MEMS) technology that provides a computer user with tactile feedback, something not available with conventional pointing devices. This MEMS-based device can be electronically altered to provide enhanced sensory information to a user in the form of textures that dynamically change to indicate the type of GUI item the cursor is over. For example, the user may be able to locate and feel the title bar of a window by a given texture, and know when he or she is moving a window from one area of the video display to another through the perception of a different texture or vibration. A user can displace GUI items over the screen as with a conventional pointing device, but can also directly rotate items such as images and three-dimensional models. In addition to general purpose use, which may increase day-to-day productivity, potential applications include uses in the gaming industry and in the examination of complex geometric structures such as molecules.   

Key Benefits

  • Graphical buttons seem to press and release as physical buttons
  • Enhanced touch pad may receive information from any machine and is not limited for use with only computers
  • Durability of MEMS-base allows it to be used in harsh environments
  • Development Status

  • U.S. Patent issued: 7,245,292
  • DoD 5000 Series Technology Readiness Level 2: Technology concept and/or application formulated
  • For more information on technology transfer, please contact us at (619) 5535118 or email
    SD 804, September 2008. SSC Pacific, San Diego, CA 921525001. Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited.

    SSC Pacific
    Updated: 1/13/2015 8:23 AM EST   Published