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Haptic Technology

The need for Haptics

Haptics, the science of sensing through touch, is at the root of how we communicate and execute everyday actions. Drinking a glass of water, typing on a keyboard or even walking relies on haptics, through force feedback stimulation of mechanoreceptors.

Thousands of such receptors in our skin convert mechanical information into electric signals to muscles that allow us to move our body as we desire.

Haptic technology is based on this very natural human function. With 18,000 mechanoreceptors in one hand – representing 31% of the total number in the body – our fingertips provide powerful tools that engineers are now taking into account when designing tactile electronic displays.

 

“The feel of touch
is about five times
faster than vision.”

Ambient Touch: Designing Tactile Interfaces for Handheld Devices, I. Poupyrev, S. Maruyama, J. Rekimoto

The importance of touch

Touch is the first of the five senses we develop as infants.

Researchers agree that it is the most immediate and intimate one and that interaction and physical connection are essential for our emotional and social health, much more so than aural or visual senses.

In spite of the importance of the sense of touch, haptics has been overlooked for several years by screen designers.


All surfaces will be screens in the future

Just as predicted by Kevin Kelly, it is reasonable to expect that most surfaces in the future will be turned into screens.

Everywhere we look there are multiple opportunities for displays: some that already exist – oven and fridge doors, smartphones, computer screens… – and others that we can only imagine as a concept in 2020: car windshields, windows, wooden tables, lamp posts, living rooms walls…

 

“Turning all surfaces
into screens.”

4th out of the 12 technological forces that will shape the next thirty years, according to Kevin Kelly in his book The Inevitable (2016).


 

“All devices [will] need to interact.
If a thing does not interact,
it will be considered broken.”

The Inevitable, by Kevin Kelly.

Touchscreens and haptic feedback: new forms of interaction

Haptic technology offers users a truly immersive experience when using touchscreens interfaces: direct information transfer between display and the fingertip.

This is surface haptics.
Surface haptics may be defined as providing programmable haptic effects on physical surfaces, making interfaces come to life.

Tactile Haptic feedback recreates the sense of touch, detecting forces and tactile stimuli in the form of vibrations, texture rendering, simulated clicks, pulses, and buzzes…


Types of Haptic Feedback

By working on the friction coefficient, Hap2U emphasises and diversifies touch sensations (intense or soft clicks, buttons, elasticity, and all kinds of relief and textures, etc.) so that each application can be personalized.

Just by tapping or sliding a finger on the screen, users feel the turn of a real knob, the push of real cursor, and other digital textures and applications.

Tap, click and audio: For keyboards, buttons actions.

Texture rendering: Slider, scroll wheel for controls, texture rendering on the screen surface.

Multi-touch: users can use multiple fingers in different areas of the screen simultaneously and receive the corresponding haptic feedback from each section. The feedback can vary in texture, relief, or intensity.

3D: Apply a “3D button” that can take various shapes onto a flat surface such as an oven or an industrial machine. It picks up on the haptic feedback emanating from the surface.


Infinite integration possibilities

Ease of integration

  • Low consumption: The impact on display power consumption is minimal, at roughly one per cent.
  • Compatibility : Hap2U uses the existing touch sensors to track finger position and deliver feedback.
  • Clustering: The actuators on the edges can be driven in clusters to independently activate multiple areas of the screen.
  • Adaptability: OEMs can integrate haptics into plastic, wood, metal or glass.

Hap2U’s technology is based on a piezo actuators solution. Two generations have been developed:

Generation I

500µm thick piezo ceramics.
Markets: automotive and industrial.
The technology can be applied either on the bezel area or underneath the display itself.

Generation II

Patented 2µm piezo thin film.
Markets: All types of mobile devices.
This is the world’s thinnest and most reliable haptic technology. Its thickness aims to address devices for which the form factor and weight are essential. Actuators are applied directly under the display stack and don’t impact its quality or performance.


Embed haptic features in materials such as glass, wood, plastic, and metal.

Materials

Hap2U developed a unique hardware setup which is able to embed haptic features in any material.

This is a revolution: After having developed haptics on glass, Hap2U deploys it on wood, plastic, and metal.

In the future, haptics will be integrated on the plastic armrests of your car, fitted into the design foot of a wooden lamp, bring accessibility to the blind and visually impaired. … the applications are endless.


Market Applications

Any device with control-needs is a target for Hap2U technology.

The main aim is to make obsolete physical control features, such as scroll wheels, sliders and buttons, that are deemed fragile and not user-friendly.


Hap2U’s Surface Haptics technology

How does it work?

The touch screen sends the finger position to the control unit.

A dedicated output signal is sent to piezoelectric actuators.

Actuators modulate friction underneath the fingertip in real time, providing local haptic feedback.

Ultrasonic vibrations

As opposed to haptic feedback delivered by inertial-based solutions, which move the whole device, Hap2U offers a solution that focuses the energy on the top of the display surface – Surface Haptic Feedback.

This solution is based on ultrasonic vibrations beneath the display surface. This ultrasonic lubrication at high vibrational amplitudes creates more or less friction, offering detailed sensations.


Piezoelectric Actuators

Hap2U uses piezoelectric actuators, electronic components made of ceramic material capable of changing shape when under electrical voltage.

Motion and force are generated depending on the voltage applied.

The shape of the actuator changes and the display vibrates accordingly, producing a more or less intense friction sensation under the fingertip.

This friction varies in real-time, and gives the user a unique real-life sensation of touch.


Hardware

The hardware design of Hap2U technology has been carefully developed to offer:

Compactness

The technology is embedded inside the display itself, the thickness of the piezoelectric representing just 2 microns of material.

Responsiveness

Low latency in delivering the haptic signal, hap2U technology responds in real-time

Robustness

Users experience the same haptic effect even in harsh, wet, or dirty environments.

Versatility

The technology can be integrated into all touch interfaces: from smart watches to panel PCs.

Software

  • Dedicated Application Programmable Interface (API) compatible with all Operating Systems (OS)
  • User-friendly Software Development Kit to build dedicated applications.

For new applications, Hap2U offers a SDK including a library from basic to more complex haptic features, and compatible with major OS.

For early developers, widgets, including plug, play sliders or scroll wheels, can be used. It allows to drag and drop the object, size it and customize the haptic feedback directly on the touch screen.

For those aiming to enrich the texture library, a Haptic Creation Tool (HCT) is available, making texture addition on top of a picture as easy as coloring it.

HAP2U demo Kit : The Xplore Touch®

Cover glass

External glass layer touched by the finger

Hap2U patent

Actuators

Piezoelectric ceramics

Touch Screen

Display stack, in all technologies (LCD, OLED…)

Casing

External plastic box

Hap2U patent

Electronics

Discrete PCB
or Integrated Chip

Casing

External plastic box

Legend

Legend of product decomposition !

1Cover glass

External glass layer touched by the finger

Hap2U patent

2Actuators

Piezoelectric ceramics

3Touch Screen

Display stack, in all technologies (LCD, OLED…)

4Casing

External plastic box

Hap2U patent

5Electronics

Discrete PCB
or Integrated Chip

6Casing

External plastic box

Picture RESPONSIVE

RESPONSIVE

With no added latency in delivering the haptic signal, hap2U technology responds in real-time.
Picture ROBUST

ROBUST

Even in harsh, wet, and dirty environments, users experience the same haptic effect.
Picture VERSATILE

VERSATILE

Our technology can be integrated into all touch interfaces: from smart watches to panel PCs.