We are all used to the senses such as sight, hearing, smell and touch. Up to now and more recently, with regard to current technology, the forth sense, touch, was not used very much in consumer based products apart from say PlayStation controllers, expensive gaming joysticks and some, mass produced low cost wearable devices which used Piezoelectric effects to create ‘vibrations’, although it was questionable if they could be properly sensed at all if worn or held.
Haptic feedback goes back a few decades, albeit in higher-end commercial usage. The more obvious application was the yoke (aircraft control stick) in which a servo-system within the aircraft would ‘shake’ the pilot’s yoke giving force feedback of say a stall situation or other serious inflight occurrence.
Fast forward a few decades and I think IMO anyway, Apple has shaken (literally) the market with some of there consumer products such as the Apple Watch and latest Generation iPhones to name a few, although it must be said other vendors have also incorporated this technology, but I’ll continue to discuss Apple as its a popular vendor across the board and they are the current leaders in this field.
What I find interesting in the Apple products, they coined the term ‘Taptic Engine‘ for say the Apple watch, which is probably the most sophisticated smart watch our there at the moment, is the inclusion of the ‘mechanical’ haptic engine in a device which relies on digital processing and unlike a mechanical watch, has no internal moving parts.
Onto the basic mechanics of the Taptic engine. Using a very small motor within the ‘engine itself, called a electromagnetic linear actuator (ELA) it does not rotate at all but oscillates from side to side extremely quickly, causing an immediate, strong and focused sensation, say on the wearers skin if using say an Apple Watch. The Taptic Engine has been designed to produce an immediate sensation for the wearer, something that cannot be easily ignored by the wearer.
Furthermore the Taptic feedback is totally synced with say an alarm going off on the display, turning the Apple Watch crown and so forth. Indeed the Apple Developers forum has both rules for would-be developers looking to leverage the Taptic engine in there own Apps such as not allowing too many Taptic feedbacks for the user, as it may diminish the urgency and attention of the force beed back experience for that user.
And the future of Haptic technologies? Virtual reality is one of the major contenders, say playing a virtual boxing match and feeling the blows on a VR vest that the gamer might wear. Or in medicine, say rehabilitation of paralysis, whereby a patient could ‘experience’ touch or feel to help with recovery following a trauma. The future is exciting for this fellable force.