Haptic technology for a better immersive experience
Updated: Nov 23, 2020
Today, the search for an even more immersive experience takes precedence over everyone's expectations, and the human experience is privileged over information.
At the core of these issues, haptic technology could be one of the elements that will disrupt the boundaries between the virtual and the reality and will have an influence on the degree of immersion.
What is haptics
The term "Haptics" is derived from the Greek word αφ ́η (pronounced haptesai) meaning "to touch". Therefore, haptic technology represents all technological devices that simulate sensory interactions related to touch.
The term may still sound abstract at first glance to some people. Yet it is a long-standing technology, existing far beyond the laboratory, in the form of feedback: vibrating notification alerts used by mobile phones or the vibration of PS2 controllers.
While haptic sensing is often limited to this type of force feedback - due to the fact that force feedback interfaces are the most developed and most widely used in the world - its definition is wider and includes several sensations: surface roughness or texture, temperature, hardness, weight etc.
When haptics meets the virtual
Immersed in a virtual environment, the user is mostly subjected to auditory and visual projections, thus relying on his or her hearing and sight. If today it is nearly possible to reproduce an object of striking realism in virtual reality, however, it lacks the friction or the illusion of relief and texture of the object to further incarnate this realism.
What if haptic technology blends with immersive and virtual experiences?
Even if it's ultimately just buzzing, a simple haptic feedback offers a subtle enhancement of the experience with a deeper engagement and a better memorization. It also allows a better handling of virtual objects by providing realistic feedback of touch and force.
In other words, the degree of sensation felt affects the immersion in the digital environment. As a result, the immersion can be ruined when the cerebral cortex detects a discrepancy between the stimulated sense in the virtual environment and in reality.
Hence, the more immersive the experience, the more successful the virtual reality experience is.
Over the last few years, new companies have sprung up offering haptic feedback equipment with technologies that are getting more and more advanced, for different purposes and sectors of activity.
Being one of the most solicited limbs to interact with the outside, the hands have a greater number of sensors than other parts of the body. That is why the hardware development has been mainly oriented towards the latter. We can mention for example GoTouch VR, BeBop, Plexus or HaptX.
Nevertheless, R&D has made it possible to develop new hardware with haptic feedback for other body parts. We can notably illustrate with Teslasuite which has designed a haptic VR combination for the whole body, or the artificial and haptic skin developed by researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland.
The sense of touch takes the user's experience and immersion to the next level
We live in a tactile world where we touch and feel the surrounding environment. These sensations are what make human beings interpret and differentiate from one environment to another.
Companies and users need a higher level of immersion than today's VR controllers can offer. Indeed, the sense of touch is one of the elements that virtual environments lack to enhance the experience, based on sound and vision, and thus offer unprecedented realism in a virtual environment.
After sight and hearing, perhaps touch will be the next step toward (almost) total immersion?:
_____________ At Light&Shadows we strive to meet and exceed our clients' needs and expectations by infusing ourselves with the latest technologies to build an even more immersive, realistic experience. In terms of haptic technology, we have already integrated it into our solutions, such as INTERACT, in order to immerse the user even more, whether in the field of training or in the design of production processes.