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Ask an Engineer Q&A Series: Haptics
Haptics is a very hot
topic in today's technology world. The term refers to the tactile feedback
effects often felt on mobile and industrial devices, from the whole-body
vibrations you feel when a cell phone rings, to more nuanced effects felt when
playing a game or analyzing stats on a work console. We recently released the DRV8662, the industry's most highly integrated
piezo haptic driver, and Eric Siegel, a member of our haptics marketing team, wrote an article about it for EE
Times, as well as a post
here on Analog Wire. You can check those out to get a quick "feel" for
Since haptics is such
a buzzworthy topic, a few weeks ago, we asked editors to submit any and all
questions they had regarding the technology, whether they be ones they didn't
get to ask during an interview, or maybe just something they've always been
curious about. We collected the questions and passed them to our experts in the
haptic design and marketing teams. In our first of a couple of posts about
haptics, here are some of the questions posed by Don Tuite,
analog editor at Electronic Design.
Q: My first question is
about how much further haptics can go. Right now, you can create a small
vibration to accompany key presses, or a more sophisticated, modulated
vibration to give feedback when the user's finger is "rotating" a virtual wheel.
I don't do any first-person shooter games, and I haven't used a Wii, but I imagine
there are other things that can be done with a larger controller to simulate
the feel of a gun firing - but then I run out of practical ideas.
may be too young to remember the original spaceship to the Moon ride
at Disneyland, where the seat bottoms squashed down under your fanny
to simulate acceleration and moved in the other direction to simulate
weightlessness -- and that memory leads me to think of multi-dimensional
flight simulators (there's a cool one that people can try out at the Udvar-Hazy
hangars of the Smithsonian, out by Dulles airport), but I don't
think your engineers are going to scale their efforts in that direction*.
So, A) where do you think you can
take haptics? and B) what problems
need to be worked out first?
they are, I know a guy at NASA Ames
who's involved with helicopter simulation.
Siegel, Product Marketing Engineer, Touch Screen Controllers and
up to date in Kansas City; they've gone about as
fer as they can go" --Will Parker, from the musical Oklahoma!
Don's question just made that song jump out, and when you look at the context
of the song and when it was written (1941), and the play taking place in 1906
Oklahoma territory, it's the best answer. In short, I think haptics has a very
bright future ahead. People are already demanding more than the technology
can currently offer. It's hard to say what will come next, as what is cool and
what someone values (or is willing to pay for that value) can be completely
I didn't have the pleasure of experiencing the original Disneyland
ride, but I have seen some inventive young minds put haptics to use. Last year
at the New
York Maker Faire, I watched a girl demonstrate her very own haptics-enabled
compass cap. She basically knitted a cap and wove in a band of LEDs and an
ERM motor, and designed it in such a way that north would be illuminated on the
cap and the ERM would be activated whenever the user is facing north - truly
integrating fashion and function, all enabled with fabulous technology.
This simple idea could be applied to safety applications for the vision
impaired, or could even add a different sensor for lane changing in an
we see haptics in portable electronics and gaming systems, and I feel we will
continue to see those arenas get enhanced with products. Specifically, the
gaming accessory market will see haptic keyboards, mice and other peripherals start
to creep in and become commonplace.
will haptics go in the future? I feel the next innovation will be truly
localized haptics, such that each touch point on a device can produce a
different haptic effect without interfering with each other. Currently,
the popularity of whole body haptics (when the entire device shakes) is the
biggest obstacle to advancing localized haptics. Future generations of devices
can use a floating screen setup, but mechanically speaking. This can be a high
bandwidth undertaking, so focusing on making more durable processes for this
setup will be the first hurdle to overcome. Potentially, there could be micro
floating screens or maybe even a MEMS section of haptic devices to help turn this
dream into a reality.
you could see haptics becoming more psychological and interacting more with how
we as humans interact, even enabling material recreation. For example,
recreating the feeling you get when touching an uneven surface (i.e. wood,
stone, etc.). This could be a gateway to grander applications that I'm not even
capable of imagining nor seeing in my lifetime, but when that day comes, "Oh
What a Beautiful Mornin'" it will be.
always interested to hear what other people are doing with the technology, so
if any of you have examples of unique or innovative applications of haptics,
please post a comment and let me know.
you have any questions about haptics for our experts, post a comment and let us
know. Check back here Thursday for the
next installment in this series, where we'll hear questions from Christina
Nickolas, editor at Electronic
Products, and Alix Paultre,
editor-in-chief at ECN. For more product-specific inquiries, head
over to the Touch
forum here on E2E.
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