Haptic technology, or haptic touch, is going to be our engagement pathway for the future. Since the start of the Covid pandemic, we are working from home more often, and much of our lives are online. However, we do not have to worry about losing physical touch.
Haptic technology offers its users a more connected experience, and this budding industry is beginning to make its mark on companies that will likely embrace this evolving tech in the future.
Tactile feedback technologies have been around for decades. The original XBox controller would vibrate when you were taking damage from an adversary, and phones/pagers have had a vibrate function for decades. As haptic technologies advance, they’re fast becoming powerful tools for consumer engagement.
We will explore haptic technology’s types, advantages, and use cases, including 3D Touch, showing how it can impact a business’s objectives and growth.
Haptic Technology Explained
Haptic technology uses hardware and software to produce tactile sensations that stimulate the user’s sense of touch, to enhance their experience. For example, the most common applications are the haptic solutions found with phones and game controllers that vibrate. Yet vibrating devices are not the only type of haptic tactile feedback: they can also include things like heat and cold, air pressure, and sound waves.
Haptic tech can also be known as kinaesthetic communication or 3D Touch, and this technology creates new experiences with motion, vibration, and similar forces. There are two terms within haptic technology that are similar but should be distinguished: haptics and haptic feedback.
- Haptics: the overarching term that is used to describe the science of haptic feedback and haptic technology, as well as the neuroscience and physiology of touch.
- Haptic feedback: the method by which haptic technologies communicate tactile information to the users.
Haptic Applications and Modalities
Immersion is a haptic tech pioneer whose technology is in over 3 billion devices worldwide. They’re the ones that tell your steering wheel to vibrate when you get too close to a car in another lane. One study on haptics showed that 94% of participants could recall objects through touch alone.
As the global user base of haptic tech grows, it will continue to expand into novel applications, improving the user’s experience.
The Four Haptic Modalities
Let’s introduce the four main haptic modalities: vibration, button stimulation, thermal stimulation, and kinesthetic.
The majority of haptic experiences possess a vibration-centric feedback focus. This includes technologies like eccentric rotating mass (ERM), or linear resonant actuators (LRA). Both work to create much of the vibration we experience with mobile or wearable devices.
Until recently, few of our touch screens offered the tactile feedback and versatility of mechanical buttons. Therefore, we expect simulated controls to be ever more popular, such as the newer offerings from Apple (“Force Touch” and Apple’s “Haptic Touch”) and Samsung (“One UI 4”). These virtual buttons can use both haptic and audio feedback to replace the feeling of a mechanical pressure plate when fingers press the screen.
Thermoelectric generators create temperature-based haptic experiences for users. This effect is accomplished through the manipulation of electric current flow between alternating conductors on a device (one warm and one cold). The user can then experience different perceived temperatures.
Tegway is producing this technology for VR headsets and other applications to add to the experience.
Kinesthetic devices are worn on the user’s body and provide the wearer with haptic feedback sensations of mass, movement, and shape. The Dexmo force feedback haptic glove exemplifies the potential growth avenue available in the kinesthetic modality.
Types of Haptic Systems
Three primary haptic system types are now being used across several industries: graspable, touchable, and wearable.
Graspable devices, such as joysticks, and steering wheels, can create kinesthetic feedback that informs our nerves, tendons, joints, and muscles. Other applications, such as human-controlled robotic operations, can utilize graspable haptic systems that will provide users with tactile movement, vibration, and resistance. This allows for more realistic operations of a remote robot or a system in a virtual environment.
The military is already using graspable haptic devices for their bomb disposal units, while NASA astronauts are using the same technology in robots that make external spacecraft repairs, preventing the need for a much more hazardous and costly spacewalk.
Touchable haptic technology is being more widely used by consumers, whether or not they are aware of it. Most smartphone screens use haptic technology, replacing the home button with a virtual button and the fingerprint reader under the screen. Screens respond to user movements, like touches, taps or rotations.
A new field within touchable haptic technology is called haptography, the mimicry of object textures and movements. TanvasTouch is a pad with programmable textures that can be felt by users swiping their fingers across touchscreens, trackpads, and physical surfaces, mimicking clothing materials like wool and silk before buying the items.
Wearable haptic systems create contact sensations, relying on tactile stimuli, such as pressure, vibration, or temperature, controlled by the nerves of the user’s skin.
Virtual Reality (VR) products are the most common application of wearable haptic technology available today. VR gloves are meant to mimic real-world impressions, and they receive input from the user who is controlling their virtual avatar. VR and AR can benefit greatly from the endless consumer engagement options that wearables and haptic tech can provide.
Haptic Technology Uses
Haptic technologies offer numerous potential advantages. Here are several current and potential use cases for touch-based solutions that tap into the benefits of haptics and can produce a better user experience.
Product Design Applications
Haptic technology can improve the user experience by working through touch optimization.
Automotive infotainment systems will begin to incorporate more haptics into their features list. Touch screens will become responsive to the user, providing multiple driver personalized settings. Additional applications for autos include pedal feedback and steering enhancements that are needed given that drive-by-wire systems are becoming more common. These help drives avoid accidents or save on gas.
Health and Wellness
The newest advances in wearable haptics provide great opportunities within the health-tech industry. Real-time haptic devices gather biometric data and can adjust the experience to suit the user.
Better data collection and feedback allow enhanced user experiences and, more importantly, improved health outcomes. TouchPoints has a wearable system which the TouchPoints CEO reports can reduce stress by 74% in 30 seconds. This is done with a vibrating pattern that interrupts anxiety and builds a restful state.
Other companies involved with posture correction, like ergonomic furniture makers, app creators, or chiropractors, can use haptic technology to improve their products and benefit their users.
With haptic feedback, training environments can simulate natural work environments and labor conditions more closely, improving training and overall accuracy. Users can partake in virtual training scenarios in a safe, offline environment while using haptics to get a lifelike experience.
This virtual haptic process can allow for training in assembly line usage, maintenance, safety procedures, and machinery operation. A similar haptic feedback system can also be used with product testing and many other uses, allowing users to train without risk to themselves or company property.
Accessibility to products and services can be improved for the visually disabled. Haptic technologies allow users to create virtual objects, they can interact with products, and even approximate the appearance of an object through touch-based sensory input. A Stanford team has developed its 2.5D display for the visually impaired to accomplish visual tasks.
Not only will these new haptic solutions create novel markets and aid those with accessibility restrictions, but they can help ensure a company stays compliant with access regulations.
Haptics has the potential to boost the speed and effectiveness of rehabilitation programs. A Dutch startup, SenseGlove, has created a glove that uses VR simulations and haptic training to aid with virtual recovery programs.
Their product allows someone suffering from nerve damage due to an accident, illness, or stroke to practice daily actions. Things like pouring a cup of hot tea or cutting a steak for dinner can be done in a safe digital environment.
With an internet connection, haptic controller, and connected robot, remote tasks will become easier and far less prone to error.
Industries lacking highly skilled specialists can connect via a virtual haptic environment, allowing subject matter experts to manipulate a robot from anywhere in the world or beyond.
Haptic technologies have been around for decades. However, the sector has seen tremendous growth in the past few years. The APAC expects the world’s haptic technology market to grow at a compounded rate of 12% through 2026.
Haptics is no longer a video game gimmick. New advancements and applications are becoming more widely available. Businesses should explore implementing these technologies into their operations, marketing, and consumer experiences.
By embracing this innovative technology, companies can offer their users an enhanced experience that makes them feel connected to products, services, and the brand. Haptics enables us to feel much more connected, no matter how far the distance between us may be.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely the author’s opinion and not investment advice – it is provided for educational purposes only. By using this, you agree that the information does not constitute any investment or financial instructions. Do conduct your own research and reach out to financial advisors before making any investment decisions.
The author of this text, Jean Chalopin, is a global business leader with a background encompassing banking, biotech, and entertainment. Mr. Chalopin is Chairman of Deltec International Group, www.deltecbank.com.
The co-author of this text, Robin Trehan, has a bachelor’s degree in economics, a master’s in international business and finance, and an MBA in electronic business. Mr. Trehan is a Senior VP at Deltec International Group, www.deltecbank.com.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this text are solely the views of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect those of Deltec International Group, its subsidiaries, and/or its employees.