Enabling the sense of touch in the digital world.

We’re introducing a whole new rich interactive experience.

01 About Us

Imagine a future in which graphic elements on a touchscreen are tangible—a tangible canvas, if you will. Introducing Tanvas.

Tanvas is about haptics—the sense of touch—as applied to touchscreen devices. Tanvas’ surface haptics technology lets you feel what you see on a touchscreen – the edges of keys, the snap of a toggle switch, the swipe of a turned page, the direction and magnitude of impacts in a game.

Just Imagine

Imagine touching a screen and feeling what you see – the feathers of a bird, the dimples of a golf ball, the texture of a sweater.

Imagine being able to not only feel textures, but also to interact with objects – a ball bouncing off your finger, the tension of a slingshot, the switch of a light.

Tanvas’ surface haptics technology moves past device vibration to texture you can actually feel. This allows devices to communicate with us in far-reaching new ways. Tanvas’ surface haptics technology is the next natural extension of the touchscreen and will bring new life to existing applications, while paving the way for profound new applications. We believe it will become so common that we will wonder why we ever used a touchscreen without it.

Tanvas was founded in 2011 by successful entrepreneurs and haptic pioneers Ed Colgate and Michael Peshkin, professors of mechanical engineering at one of the world’s foremost haptics research laboratories at Northwestern University. Tanvas is the exclusive licensee of a suite of patents developed to create high-resolution touchscreen haptics. In short, a screen where you can feel what you see.

The Technology 02

Until now, haptic feedback has been limited to vibration, called vibrotactile technology. Indeed, vibrotactile technology can be found in a majority of smartphones, underscoring the importance of haptic feedback to a user. Imagine if we could do more. Imagine if the sensory touch feedback mimicked real life.

Our breakthrough technology provides a set of techniques for controlling the in-plane forces experienced by a fingertip as a programmable function of the finger’s motion.

The in-plane forces arise from friction, and our techniques allow friction to be increased, decreased, even reversed or redirected.

Ed Colgate, Co-Founder at Tanvas

Haptics, or the sense of touch, is unique among the senses in that it is bilateral, meaning it has two aspects rather than one. Consider pushing a toggle switch: the way that the switch feels doesn’t depend solely on the forces your hand applies, nor does it depend solely on the movement of the switch. It depends on the two-way relationship between motion and force. The question naturally arises: can we control the bilateral force-motion relationship on a touchscreen?

Tanvas’ surface haptics technology is a ground-breaking concept in that it enables real-time control of the forces acting between a fingertip and the touch surface.

Learn more about the research fueling this innovation from our founders, Ed Colgate and Michael Peshkin.

03 Application

Tanvas surface haptics technology is not a dream for the future; it exists today. Right now, the Tanvas team of engineers is working on a practical, affordable, and dependable touchscreen technology. We are ready to change the way people interact with touchscreens.

Imagine feeling the texture of a sweater, jacket, or other clothing before you buy it online.

Imagine finding various controls on your car touchscreen without taking your eyes off the road.

Imagine feeling the click of the dial as you change channels, or move the volume higher or lower.

Touch interfaces are everywhere—on laptops, tablets, car dashboards, retail kiosks, operating rooms, and of course on a host of portable devices such as cameras and smartphones. Touch interfaces provide flexible interaction possibilities that discrete controls simply cannot.

As old-fashioned as the traditional discrete controls feel to us now, they did provide useful physical feedback. In fact, many of the touchscreen graphics we use for controls are strongly haptic in origin. Sliders, toggles, dials and the like were originally designed for the hand and, as they exist today, cannot be used without vision. Audio feedback and basic vibration haptics have tried to fill the gap, but can only be so successful based on their inherent limitations.

Tanvas’ surface haptics technology will give rise to a new generation of devices and applications with relevance across essentially every industry – from automotive to education, from retail to medical, from consumer electronics to industrial applications.

Join us as we create the future of haptics.

05 The Team

Ed Colgate


Ed has dedicated most of his career to the study of haptic interface, and is considered one of the leading scholars in the field. As a professor of Mechanical Engineering at Northwestern University, Ed has maintained a robust research program that has led to two previous spin-off companies: Cobotics (acquired by The Stanley Works in 2002), and Kinea Design (acquired by HDT Robotics in 2011). He is a prolific inventor with twenty-five issued patents with several more pending. He is recognized for seminal contributions to the design and control of haptic interfaces, and in 2007 was selected as the Founding Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE Transactions on Haptics. In recent years, he has focused on Surface Haptics, developing the technological foundation for Tanvas.

Michael Peshkin


Michael is known for his seminal contributions to physical human-robot interaction, and was a major figure in opening the gates to allow force-and-motion interaction between robots and humans in medical and industrial applications. As a professor of Mechanical Engineering at Northwestern University, his work formed the scientific core for Mako Surgical (NASDAQ:MAKO). Later he teamed up with Ed Colgate to co-founded Cobotics, Kinea Design, and now Tanvas. Michael is credited with a total of twenty-nine patents issued with several more pending.

Greg Topel


Greg’s leadership experience crosses a variety of company structures and electro-mechanic product lines at Motorola, RedFusion Studios (an engineering consulting firm), and Life Fitness. Before joining Tanvas, Greg was R&D Manager at ITW’s Technology Center where he oversaw mechanical and manufacturing development efforts and technology evaluations for new product entries. Greg has a BSME from Northwestern University and an MBA from the University of Chicago.

Mondher Cherif

Chief Scientist

Mondher has over 20 years of experience and knowledge of materials and processes used in the touch screen industry. Before joining Tanvas, he was Chief Engineer at TPK USA and a key contributor to the developed processes and manufacturing methods for the several touchscreen offerings including the first iPhone. He also has experience working at a startup company where, as an R&D manager, he was part of a core team that commercialized products for the photonic industry, prior to the acquisition of the company by Corning. Dr. Cherif holds BS/MS degrees from Michigan State University and a PhD from the University of Maryland.

Michael Olley

Director of Electrical Engineering

Michael has more than 13 years of experience in research and design of mobile phone capacitive touch screens. Recently Michael was a Principal Staff Engineer at Motorola Mobility, tasked with the technical and managerial lead of the touch system group. He was responsible for strategy, roadmap and supplier decisions of user interface hardware technologies and is credited with two issued touchscreen related patents and another six pending. Michael holds an MSEE degree from University of Illinois at Chicago and a BSEE from the University of Waterloo.

Wes Davis

Board Member

Wes started Rand Griffin Ltd. in 2010 to leverage the 30 years of experience he has had as CEO/President of six technology companies, as well as serving as an independent Board member of seven other companies. From 1996 to 2001 he was the CEO of MicroTouch Systems, at the time the world’s largest touchscreen company. During his tenure, the company increased revenues to over $160 million and he initiated its sale to 3M. Wes was also CEO of Sionex Corporation, a start-up that developed a trace chemical detector, and Radiant Images, an early-stage company with an advanced microdisplay technology. He holds a BSE in Engineering from Princeton University and an MBA from Harvard.

Contact Us 06

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