Today let’s talk a bit about haptic technologies!
The haptic field is still new, and the coming years will see a drastic change in how we interact with our environment! How many haptic devices do you know so far? I guess, the vibration category is known by all of you. It corresponds to the one providing you with notifications or a click in your smartphone. It is commonly called the Vibrotactile. Different physical systems can provide a vibration feedback. One of the most renowned is the Eccentric Rotating Mass (ERM) that was traditionally integrated into mobile phones and gaming accessories such as controls for video-game consoles. A most recent type of physical system is Linear Resonant Actuators (LRA). It is faster than the traditional ERM and uses less power while providing a more accurate feedback. The last noticeable system to produce a vibrotactile feedback, such as a Click, is Electro-Active Polymer (EAP). The EAP are thin-layer of active material (200 µm) that can produce a deformation under a difference of voltage. With this technology there is a possibility for generating sound as well, in specific conditions of casing integration.
Now, if we leave the field of contact technologies for a quick moment, we can explore what is called mid-air haptic technologies. Basically, these haptic systems will let you feel a contact without contact! This works with using tiny kind-of-speakers which will focus all on one point on the hand or finger providing with a feeling of touch without a contact. This has nice applications for the medical field. It sounds promising and we are still expecting to see it happening in real life.
Then come the haptic technologies based on Friction-Modulation. Behind this barbaric term, relies a very simple principle in which the feeling of touch comes from a change in the friction between the finger and the interface. When you can precisely control the friction and its changes from rough to smooth and so on, then the possibilities of haptic rendering become endless. You can expect feeling fabric materials directly on your smartphone screen for instance. Different ways to monitor the friction exist and when having a specific look at hap2U technology, we can realize that is it purely based on mechanical vibration.
This vibration occurs at ultrasonic frequencies (above 20 kHz) and generates a thin-film of pressurized air between your finger and the screen thus modifying the friction. This way the vibration can be controlled and so is the feeling of touch. The pure mechanical characteristic means it has a high reliability in all environments (Daily life, Automotive, Industry …). Finally, this technology enables multiple features at the same time: haptic feedback, click function, multitouch and audio provided directly from the screen! There are a lot to expect from hap2U tech in a near-future !