Haptic Technology – Touching the Virtual World

Haptic Technology – Touching the Virtual World

Haptics is a technology that serves to bridge virtual and physical reality by offering touch sensations. Think about DualShock controller’s rumble feedback when firing guns in video games, or Nokia touchscreens which respond to long presses by vibrating.

Feel the vibrations of haptics with your phone when messages or calls arrive; medical professionals utilize haptics during minimally-invasive surgeries and for training teleoperators.

1. Vibrotactile Feedback

Vibrotactile feedback is one of the most commonly used types of haptics. This inexpensive yet straightforward technique produces vibrations in the top layer of skin receptors (similar to onions). While vibrotactile feedback may produce force feedback, its primary use is for stroke touch interactions where users sense pressure from virtual objects.

There are a number of commercial haptic interfaces which utilize this technology, most notably CyberGrasp’s exoskeleton-like grip around a user’s hands to provide resistive force feedback to each finger for tactile sensation, so they can feel virtual solid objects within computer-generated worlds.

Haptics can also be applied to graphic user interfaces, so users feel and hear when depressing buttons on a touchscreen device. This technique is known as skeuomorphic haptics; Nokia designers have already perfected it; when pressing one of their on-screen buttons you both feel its movement as well as hearing its click sound!

But haptics is not limited to gaming: many science teachers find them attractive as research shows that students learn better when they touch and feel. Some schools are using them so their students can probe 3-D renderings of viruses or nanoparticles or experience recoil from different guns during first-person shooter games.

2. Electrotactile Feedback

Many people assume haptics is only used to add realism to virtual experiences, but its uses go much deeper. Haptics can help make tasks simpler or even help alter our emotions.

One of the most prevalent types of haptics is vibrotactile feedback, which uses vibrations to stimulate skin stimulation. It’s widely used on mobile phones, touchscreens, wearable electronics and video game controllers and offers easy creation and control while offering limited emulation of physical sensations.

Thermal feedback haptics is another form of haptics, using heat to stimulate a user’s skin and warn of new messages or when matching candies successfully in Candy Crush. It’s also used in GPS systems as direction cues.

Force feedback involves deep stimulation of skin, muscles and ligaments to simulate realistic pressure and weight against body parts. It’s used in robotic teleoperation systems, medical training simulators and immersive VR; additionally it’s sometimes used to assist those with limited mobility – companies such as SenseGlove have created gloves which allow those suffering nerve damage to practice everyday tasks safely in a digital environment – this could significantly speed up rehabilitation programs and enhance rehabilitation results. Haptics can even be used to communicate with other users, for example when receiving an app notification on phone.

3. Mid-Air Haptics

Haptics researchers are exploring a new technology, called mid-air haptics, to make objects appear to float in midair. They achieve this effect by producing ultrasonic radiation pressure using a device that tracks where users place their hands in space; it can also generate time-varying vibrations to simulate vibrotactile stimulation – this type of haptics has yet to become commercially available.

Studies conducted with science communicators (W1 at a science fair, W2 at a museum exhibit and W3 in our laboratory) have revealed the value of dynamic haptics for communicating scientific phenomena by increasing enjoyment and interest – the hedonic dimensions of AEIOU framework. Participants have highlighted its dynamic features as an effective means of creating shared experiences while still being flexible enough for communicating scientific concepts through metaphors and stories.

These factors have encouraged discussions regarding the nature and value of haptic representations, which can be more abstract than 3D models or images. A haptic representation that feels like a flower opening has multiple interpretations: for instance, one participant described it as “growing,” while another thought it was energy waves; this ambiguity has great potential to engage people in dialogue about scientific representations by encouraging guessing and debate (See Themes 2 and 3).

4. Force Feedback

Haptic feedback adds the sensation of touch to virtual experiences. It can be used to simulate object weight or convey other information like vibration frequency. Haptics also serve as feedback when users interact with devices; for instance, mobile phone haptics provide vibrating notifications whenever someone texts you or alerts you with new text or alert messages – with its rhythm and strength helping distinguish different messages by their sound.

Experienced the effects of their actions can enhance user satisfaction, which can aid learning and retention. A recent study indicated that students with higher user satisfaction levels tend to recall and learn concepts more readily.

Haptics encompasses various approaches, but all rely on software and devices that calculate force data. Most often, these devices use polyhedral models to represent 3-D objects before applying forces directly onto their surfaces using techniques such as tumbling. Tumbling can also simulate motion similar to real world phenomena by producing continuous vibrations similar to real-life movement of an object in space.

CyberGrasp technology from Immersion Corporation uses actuators to generate resistance against virtual solid objects. The exoskeleton-style device covers hands like an exoskeleton, producing different degrees of force for each finger; even more realistic experiences can be had when fingers penetrate or crush virtual objects to give an authentic sensation of realness.

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