Software giant Microsoft has reportedly developed a 3D touchscreen that shows images which can be felt and manipulated.
It includes an LCD flat panel screen with force sensors and a robotic arm that moves it back and forwards and by controlling how much resistance there is to a user's fingertip the device can simulate the shape and weight of objects shown on screen, BBC reports.
According to the report, Microsoft said that the device can have both medical and gaming uses.
Senior researcher Michael Pahud said that when the finger pushes on the touchscreen and the senses merge with stereo vision, if convergence is done correctly and visuals are updated constantly so that they correspond to the finger's depth perception, it will be enough for the brain to accept the virtual world as real.
The report said that the company has created a demonstration using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of a brain to show how a medic could navigate through the different slices by pushing their finger against the display allowing them to draw notes and leave a ‘haptic detent’, or force-feedback marker - at certain layers to make it easier to find them again later on.
Pahud said that the ‘haptic detent’ can be extended to flag up potential problems is encountering an anomaly like a tumour, because one can change the response based on what they touch.
Dr Peter Weller, head of the Centre for Health Infomatics at City University, London, is concerned that Microsoft's screen would not be able to give an accurate enough indication of textures because if it was going to be used in the real world it would have to respond to rapidly changing shapes.
Weller further said that if technology like Tactus, which has developed a screen with tiny channels of fluid which allows bumps to pop up to simulate the feel of button, is combined with Microsoft’s innovation it could prove useful for a doctor to do teleconsultancy work adding that it would mean the patient could be in another country or hospital and the doctor could feel their glands or abdomen from a distance, the report added.