Tiny Robots Add Physical Controls and Dials to Larger Touchscreens

By Andrew Liszewski on at

If there's still one complaint we all have about touchscreens, it's that we sometimes miss physical buttons. Whether it's a game controller, or a keyboard, having tactile feedback is arguably a better solution. Which is what led to the development of these tiny robot Thumbles that roll onto a touchscreen as needed to provide temporary physical controls.

Developed by PattenStudio, a design shop that specialises in interactive experiences, the robots are designed to complement a large touchscreen or projected tabletop interface. Finger taps and hand gestures still remain the prominent way to interact with what's on-screen, but the robots can jump it any time.

So for example, when editing video, one of the robots can hover over the timeline providing a physical way to scrub footage back and forth. Or three of them can roll into position when a colour corrector is activated, serving as rotatable red, green, and blue dials.

Because the robots are self-powered, they can even provide force-feedback by rolling against the user's motions. So a slider could be prevented from moving too far, or a dial could provide resistance when a setting is reaching its maximum value. In theory 26 of these robots could form a massive keyboard, although they'd need to be miniaturised even further to provide any kind of touch typing functionality. [PattenStudio via Notcot]