Touch screens are sooo 2000-and-late. You know what’s fresh? Being able to feel the texture of what’s on your screen. Just imagine feeling the cold, hard steel of the weapon your character is holding in Call of Duty; or the soft, silky material of that perfect dress you’re buying online. Does this seem far-fetched to you? Well, this kind of magic is called haptic technology.
What is haptic technology? In short, it is a feedback-technology that simulates the sense of touch by vibration, motion and force through interactions with the user. It is easier to replicate visual and auditory cues from the user, but much more difficult to work on tactile cues. Nonetheless, researchers are actively looking at how to efficiently convert these signals to a sense of touch.
Okay, so why so much fuss about this – what will it bring to you, blog- reader? In many applications, the sense of touch is vital to convey information about the object from the fingertips to the brain. When this sense is combined with the other 4, it dramatically increases the amount of information the brain receives about the object. This reduces the amount of time and error involved in completing a certain task. This is especially important in professional training, such as when doctors and astronauts practice on virtual objects.
The video below is a TedEd talk by a professor at UPenn. It summarizes haptic technology and provides some important implications for this applied science. For example, medical students can practice their profession on virtual patients, such as finding cavities on a set of teeth. In fact, cavities can more precisely be found on real teeth with this technology as well! Online shopping can also be enhanced – the shopper can feel the texture of the item before they make the purchase – making it a more convenient experience for all. Gamers will also be more involved in the game as they can feel the ground underneath the character’s feet, and can accurately simulate the driving of a vehicle.
Maybe in the next few years, when you shop for your favourite kind of jeans at hm.com, you will be able to feel that familiar denim texture right from your device at home.