What is Haptics?

Haptics is the sense of touch mediated by technologies.

The haptics term comes from the greek “haptikos” meaning “concerning the sense of touch”. In the tech world haptics identifies all the technologies that provide the sensation of digital touch feedback, also called haptic feedback.

Haptics is a particular technology because it is bidirectional. It involves an action (interaction) and a reaction (haptic feedback). Specifically, the action is the intention of the user to interact with an haptics-enabled content. The reaction is the haptic feedback that the digital content transmits to the user.

This is one of the key aspects of haptics: interaction is almost as important as the haptic feedback. Haptics is successful when it is included in the design process of your applications.

There are several haptics technologies on the market. They are roughly divided into tactile haptics technology and kinesthetic haptics technology.

A woman demonstrating haptic sensation, through touching and feeling with her fingertips.

Tactile Haptics Technologies

Haptics technologies relying on tactile stimulation tend to transmit a mechanical stimulus to the skin of humans. These technologies are divided in:

1) Vibrational - Like the vibration in your iPhone.
2) Surface change - Like a Braille display for visually impaired people.
3) Frictional change - like Hap2u technology.

The most widespread are vibrational haptics technologies that power the beloved rumble of the PlayStation Dual Shock, each and every phone and smartphone since the Nokia 3310.

They are also the most used technology in Haptics for Extended Reality applications, and are included in all the VR controllers and most of the VR gloves available on the market today.

The showcasing of Haptic technology from Vive, SensoryX, and Manus as examples of tools used in VR projects for Haptic Feedback.A close-up into HTC Vive's Haptic Technology used for Haptic Feedback in Virtual Reality projects.

Kinesthetic Haptics Technologies

These haptics technologies work by exercising a force on the user impeding a limb movement. They are not usually felt on the skin, but mainly on the muscles and tendons. The main field of applications is simulators where they serve to mimic the real behavior of a system. Their implementation is usually quite cost intensive and reserved to business applications.

There is an effort to democratize such technologies for Virtual Reality applications. Actors like Haptix and Senseglove are introducing these technologies for larger market segments.

The role of Interhaptics

Interhaptics helps content creators, independent software vendors, original equipment manufacturers, and haptics technology providers to deliver better haptics in a shorter time.

A simple diagram showcasing the Interhaptics technology stack, including compatible hardware and software.

We leverage the power of our Interhaptics Engine to allow great haptics products to scale.

Do you have a haptics use case?

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