You may be surprised by what two researchers from the Carnegie Mellon Foundation are attempting to do to the traditional touch display. Chris Harrison and his college Scott Hudson are looking to add more dimensions of touch detection to your the standard interface.
Traditionally, tablets are limited in a 2 dimensional world. A lot of the useful screen space is taken up by buttons , and one has to perform a limited set of special gestures, like touch and hold, double taps and multi finger motions to activate additional functions. The team is proposing to add a few more dimensions to the screen by adding a pressure and shear sensor.
Their prototype has a display with a thick screen mounted a small distance above the display. At the top left corner, we can see a joystick-like sensor that gives the thick screen degrees of freedom in the directions tangent to the screen’s surface, or in shear.
The team created a music player where more hand gestures are possible due to the added mobility of the screen, effectively removing buttons from the graphical user interface. This music program along with a drawing program they created, show the diverse range of possibilities for adding these degrees if freedom to the screen. Of course, limitation are always present but this set up would add considerably to the list of possibilities. Text in the white-paper admits that this tech may be an issue for rigid touchscreens, as in phones or tablets, and only one shear input can be taken at any one time.
This prototype has a long way before it will be implemented in consumer products. Harrison and Hudson will have to convince companies and investors that there is value in the idea (those people seem to only understand money). The team released a paper on supplemental shear input as a way to enrich touchscreen interaction.