CodeChangers STEM Blog post

Haptic Feedback in Everyday Life

  • Sydney
  • September 28, 2020
  • News

You may have felt it, but you may not know what it is. You feel it in your pocket when your cell phone vibrates—or even when you are playing video games with your controller of choice. Haptic Technology or Haptic Feedback “is the usage of vibration and waveforms to pass information to a user” (De Venecia, 2020). For example, when you type a text message on a phone it usually vibrates with each key you press—giving you the signal that you have indeed been successful with touching a key on its keyboard. Let’s learn more about what haptic technology is and how it plays into your daily life with different devices such as cell phones, video games and even movies!

What is Haptic Technology?

The entire idea of Haptics is to not only communicate with its user, but to also immerse the user as needed. It is the idea of incorporating touch into the digital world. There are three types of categories that devices fall into in regards to haptic technology— graspable (e.g., a joystick), wearable (e.g., a finger pad put on your finger) and touchable (e.g., smartphones or smart watches) (Hutson, 2018). This idea of touch entering into technology has reached several fields beyond the screen. Such fields that have taken interest include medicine, robotics and even art (Hutson, 2018; De Venecia, 2020; Haptic technology. n.d.). While we will focus on how haptics interact with us on a daily basis, haptics is changing the way we interact with future technology.

Cell Phones

More than ever, cell phones have become more and more of an important part of our lives. It is our calendar, phone, internet browser and more. To be such a swiss army knife of communication, it needs to communicate with you the user. Have you noticed how it vibrates when you receive a call or text? How about when you type on your keyboard or select an app (De Venecia, 2020)? Thanks to revolutionary companies such as Apple (De Venecia, 2020), these sensations give you the physical confirmation that it has been indeed touched and recognizes that you are interacting with it. Its subtle communication tells you that your cellphone is working properly and lets you know about the messages you receive.

Video Games

It’s hard to imagine video games without your controller vibrating or “rumbling.” Since Sega’s release of the video game “Fonz” in 1976, haptics have been an integral part of the video game experience (Fonz, n.d.). Haptics here serve to immerse and communicate with the player (De Venecia, 2020) such as to let you know when you have been hit or are selecting a button. The future of video games are going beyond the standard “bzzz” though. Vibrations in video games are becoming more intricate in how it communicates with the player. Companies such as Nintendo, Razor, Sony and Microsoft have been experimenting with how to make one’s video game experience that much more interactive through touch (De Venecia, 2020; Haptic technology, n.d.). In fact, some devices are now giving more detailed vibrations to give the sensations of things such as the draw and release of a bow and arrow or even feeling the subtle footsteps of something behind you… (De Venecia, 2020; Haptic technology, n.d.). I wonder when they are going to give you the chance to taste video games too...

Movie Theatres

Phones…. Video games… What else am I missing? Oh right! Movies. Now this is more of a thing of the future for the United States, but 4D movies are definitely on the rise. Your protagonist takes a bullet? You feel that. Dive bombing a plane? Yup. Feel that too. Snowing? Check (Yes—it literally “snows” in the theatre) (Brown, 2019). In fact, according to Daniel Loria, a box office editorial director, in an interview with the reporter Benjamin Brown with Fox News, “It’s just not enough to put a movie on a screen and expect people to go. You have to give people a reason to have a night out.” Movies are now exploring more ways to get the viewer more involved with the movie itself. To get these immersive sensations, things such as the seats moving around, patrons being sprayed in the face with water and even the theatre producing smells have been explored to get the viewer more into the film (Brown, 2019). Now, not only are phones and video games involved with the world of haptics, but so is your favorite movie. So my only question is, is will I get carsick if I’m eating popcorn in the 4D movie theatre?

Haptics are changing how we will interact with technology in our everyday life. It not only communicates with us but also bridges the gap between the physical and digital world. It may not be as flashy and noticeable as brand new graphics, but it certainly grabs our attention in a way that we forget the world around us—just as it should.

Work Cited

Brown, B. (2019, April 5). Movie theaters turn to 4D technology, haptic vests to draw new audiences. In Fox News. Retrieved from https://www.foxnews.com/tech/movie-theaters-turn-to-innovation-focus-on-providing-an-experience-to-draw-new-audiences

De Venecia, A. (2020, July 19). What Is haptic feedback and how did it revolutionize gaming?. In Robots.Net. Retrieved from https://robots.net/gaming/what-is-haptic-feedback-and-how-did-it-revolutionize-gaming/

Fonz. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haptic_technology#Video_games

Haptic technology. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haptic_technology#Video_games

Hutson, M. (2018, December 28). Here’s what the future of haptic technology looks (Or rather, feels) like. In Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/heres-what-future-haptic-technology-looks-or-rather-feels-180971097/