A tactile display is programmable device to be detected by human touch. It has great potential applications in the field of virtual environment. The current research is the first step to develop a programmable tactile array based on ER/MR fluid technology. Prototypes of display incorporating controllable fluids such as electrrheological (ER) fluid and magnetorheological (MR) fluid have been developed and investigated. Surface force responses of these tactile displays under various electric/magnetic fields have been measured while a probe moving across the upper surface. As the applied external electric or magnetic field varied, the sensed surface profiles changed in synchronisation with the field strength. With the controllable fluid actuator, the displayed surface information is stable and repeatable.© (2007) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.