The Power of Haptic

Applying touch sensation and control within applications could turn into a game changer

Strange name, much promise

By now, you have probably heard about haptic technology – in the past 10 years, as touch screen technology evolved, it went from little known to ubiquitous, enjoying many practical and fun applications alike. Haptics essentially includes any form of interaction involving touch finger gestures and is the science of applying touch (tactile) sensation and control to interactions within applications for touchscreens of any size. The word is derived from the Greek “haptein,” meaning "to fasten."

Haptic innovations

Because haptic tech is, in itself, dynamic and two-way, it presents a unique, intuitive alternative for users to interact with a piece of software through the haptic-enabled hardware. Even children as young as one year are able to quickly pick up the way haptic works, just by interacting with a device and testing it out for themselves. In fact, tactile and sensory feedback has become such an intricate part of the way children learn today that we often witness cases of youngsters swiping left or right on non-haptic devices, such as old-style television sets or even printed publications. It seems that generations who grow up with haptic can’t easily understand or go back to a user experience that is static, one-way and unresponsive.

Haptic software applications

Haptics offers an additional sensory dimension to virtual reality, augmented and 3D environments and is essential to fully experiencing their immersive nature. Games running on touch devices wouldn’t be that interactive without haptics.

Another very promising application of haptics’ tactile feedback is in building tools for the blind. Haptic displays, by default, offer two modes of feedback: visual and tactile, meaning they can be used without the user having to look at the screen. If you can feel something on a screen, seeing it becomes no longer necessary. In the near future running their fingers over devices’ screens will enable the visually impaired to extract meaning from the things they display, solely by the gesture of touch. This will either be done by using the Braille tactile writing system or a new convention based on tactile interaction.

Naturally, there is much hope in the visually impaired community that haptic touchscreens would make Braille reading and comprehension commonplace, and much easier than it currently is on electronic devices.                                   

Haptic hardware applications

Today you can find haptics built into most modern personal and commercial touch-enabled connected devices. Laptops, tablets, mobile phones, TV, hifi, smart fridges, and any other touchscreen-controlled systems like those used in retail showrooms, building maintenance control rooms or high-tech elevators, largely base their user experience on haptic. Apple, Samsung, Nokia, Huawei, and so many other mobile device manufacturers incorporate haptic in most, if not all of their new models.

Haptic technology has the potential to unlock extra features on the devices that use it. In the latest MacBooks Pro, the Force Touch trackpad is a new type of touchpad, which incorporates a custom haptic engine, capable of producing tactile feedback that lets you feel what's happening on the screen.

You can also force-click by pressing on the trackpad and then applying additional pressure, allowing you to take advantage of added functionality in native Mac apps and system features. For example, force-clicking on a given word will provide you with a dictionary definition of that word. When you force-click an address, a map preview of that location is generated. It’s a bit like your device being able to guess what you need without you explicitly telling it, just by interacting with certain items tactilely.

Copywriter: Ina Danova

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