Optimal skin impedance promotes perception of ultrasonic switches

  • Monnoyer Jocelyn
  • Diaz Emmanuelle
  • Bourdin Christophe
  • Wiertlewski Michael


Ultrasonic friction reduction is one potential technology for bringing tangibility to flat touchscreens. We previously established that this approach can be used to create an artificial sensation of pressing a mechanical switch by varying the coefficient of friction, which depends on the force applied by the user. This sensation proves effective majority of, but a non-negligible fraction reported feeling only weak sensations or none at all. In the present study, we examined the factors possibly involved in producing a vivid perception of a stimulus by measuring the mechanical impedance of the fingertip as an index to the frictional behavior, and performing psychophysical experiments. Subjects who experienced weaker sensations were found to have a weaker susceptibility to friction modulation, which may in turn be attributable to either a larger or a smaller than average/normal impedance; whereas those with a mechanical impedance of around 55 N.s/m clearly perceived the ultrasonic switch. Measuring and factoring the users impedance in real time could therefore provide a useful means of improving the rendering of ultrasonic surface haptic devices.