What is Haptics?

Haptics refers to the sense of touch (from Greek ἅπτω = "I fasten onto, I touch" - see Wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haptic_technology).

When we refer to haptics, we really mean to say haptic feedback which is in the broadest sense the act of stimulating a user’s sense of touch.

Immersion’s TouchSense® solutions and Haptic Development Platform are focused on enabling devices and software developers to generate touch sensations that a device user can feel.

When you think about it, we often talk about the feel of things – we really care about how something feels because it helps us complete our mental picture of something in a way that sight alone cannot.  When faced with an unfamiliar object and after looking at it for a while from different angles we’re usually very tempted, more like driven, to reach out with our hands to touch the object, perhaps pick it up if it’s small enough, in order to get a sense of its rigidity, its surface texture, its weight, and its temperature.

Haptics in the 21st century is about introducing an active, digital touch experience to computer and mobile device users. Tactile sensation works with the other human senses; sound and vision to transform digital, virtual experiences and interactions into tangible ones. As humans, we’re conditioned to expect real, physical objects to have texture and weight from birth. This is one of the reasons why introducing high quality haptics into computer and mobile device interfaces provides users with increased satisfaction, comfort and pleasure.


Haptics in Mobile Devices

On a practical level, different devices lend themselves to different methods of providing haptic feedback.  In the past 20 years, mobile devices have focused on vibration feedback as the primary method of stimulating our sense of touch.  Unfortunately, early implementations of vibration feedback were of the extremely mundane and banal variety – the ubiquitous buzz buzz… of the pager (first) or mobile phone (thereafter) that was meant to alert a user of some important event, like an incoming phone call or message.  That sensation, to us, is equivalent to your Mom shouting at you from the kitchen to ‘get down here and join us at the table already! Don’t make me come up there…!’

A few years ago, Immersion set out to change the way vibration is created and experienced in mobile phones.

The result is the TouchSense Player 3000 and the Haptic SDK, a haptic content authoring and playback system that gives software application developers the ability to create a much wider range of vibration sensations than is otherwise possible.  On a mobile device, it is possible to do as much or more with TouchSense 3000 and the Haptic SDK more easily than most console gaming application developers can do with DualShock or similar vibration technologies on a dedicated console gaming system. The TouchSense Player is now deployed across a significant number of mobile phone handset models out there today.  In addition, the Haptic SDK adds support for all Android devices with a vibration capability.

Our goal here, with the tools and information you’ll find on this site, is to make it fun and easy for you to make haptics, in the form of vibration feedback, a great part of your application users’ experience.  Welcome to the world of haptics!