The Impact Of The Touchpad On The Brain
Touchpads utilize haptic technology for kinesthetic communication. The world “haptic” is from the Greek verb haptesthai, which means to contact or touch. Haptic technology has made it possible for researchers to learn more about the brain functions associated with touch.
The use of the hands is one of the first ways that human beings learn to communicate. Psychologist Jerome Bruner called the method by which children make hand gestures to classify objects and indicate their needs “enactive representation”. This concept demonstrates the extent to which our hands can be an extension of our thoughts.
Some of the research has been focused on determining what kinds of technology works best with the way our brains work. For example, one body of research focused on point and click user interface technology to develop new techniques and devices for point and click operations. Much of this research utilizes Fitt’s law, a mathematical formula that calculates movement times according to the width and distance of the target. Through systematic variations of target placement, researchers can determine the ideal location for placement of objects on a screen for maximum speed and efficiency in point and click operations.
Other research has been dedicated to precuing, or the process of providing cues about where the next point and click target will appear on the screen. This research has contributed to decreasing the amount of time required to complete point and click operations through the use of patterns of target object placement on the screen. It has also been useful in determining whether a touchpad or a mouse is the best and most efficient tool for certain types of operations.
Some of the most exciting research has yielded the recent discovery of direct mind to mind communication with the use of a touchpad. In this study, one person, the “sender” was hooked to an electroencephalography machine. This machine reads brain activity and transforms it into electrical impulses which can be sent to a “receiver”. Researchers placed a transcranial magnetic stimulation coil in the receiver’s brain near the area that controls hand movements. While playing a video game, the sender sent the command “Fire”! over the internet to the brain of the receiver, whose hand hit the touchpad as a result of the message received. According to Chantel Prat from the UW Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences, this research could result in developing new ways of interacting with the brain. Through the use of this technology, information lost to individuals who have suffered brain damage could be restored.
Research is still being conducted regarding the effects of the use of touch screen technology on the brain development of young children. Thus far, research indicates that the use of educational interactive technology does not result in the kinds of social and developmental issues that occur with frequent use of passive technology such as television. Since haptic technology continues to be refined and new applications for its use are still being discovered, research on the effects of touchpads on the human brain will continue for years to come.