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Monday - September 12, 2022

New Haptic Technology Improves Communication With Digital Interfaces

The sense of touch transcends culture and communication barriers to bring people closer together. As our world becomes more mobile and remote, people are feeling quite literally “out-of-touch” with reality. New developments in the field of haptics are looking to transform how we communicate via touch within increasingly digital environments.

According to IDTechEx, the Haptics market will be worth over $5 billion globally by 2027. Today, more than 80% of haptic technologies are found in mobile devices, however this market is close to saturation as almost 85% of the global population owns a smartphone. Recently, haptic technology developers are adopting higher value tactile feedback mechanisms to grow in new industries and applications. The automotive industry is expected to increase the most in the next ten years and will account for the largest share of the haptic technology market by 2023.

The quest for realistic haptic feedback

Haptic feedback is how devices communicate with users through touch. Consumers today are familiar with vibration feedback which is used in various applications such as smartphone notifications, driver warnings and gaming. Improvements in haptic technology have made it possible to modify vibration to deliver diverse communication patterns enabling advanced applications and experiences.

Traditional vibration motors, such as those equipped with an eccentric rotating mass, deliver quite harsh vibration feedback that can be jarring and noisy for everyday use. New technology has enabled shrinking vibration motor designs and improved control mechanisms that can generate different touch sensations by applying alternate voltages. New vibration motors are capable of simulating various types of buttons and textures while conveying valuable information to the user.

New technology supports advanced applications

Haptic feedback has been prevalent in consumer devices for years – from gaming to smartphones, vibration feedback is a well-recognized form of device communication. It is difficult to accurately replicate the sense of touch but, researchers are getting closer with new technologies that can simulate texture, warmth and even wind.

Electrostatic interactions can produce realistic textures by applying an electric current to the skin. By varying input voltages and current, the electrostatic pulse can simulate bumpy surfaces or rough fabric. Thermal haptic feedback is another way to interact with users such as simulating cold or hot beverages. Finally, ultrasound technology can be used to deliver a tactile response without any actual contact with the device.

These new technologies create opportunities to incorporate tactile response into applications that require precise, realistic haptic feedback such as medical devices and virtual/augmented reality. Training and simulation tools with a lifelike touch response can provide new employees or students with a more accurate field experience. It also enables new possibilities in remote learning – expanding access to more students and employees.

What else is possible with new and improved haptic technology? We will explore new haptic feedback applications in medical, industrial and automotive industries in this blog series.

Jayme Meyers
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