Haptic technology will change the way you think about pushing buttons

Meet Mr. Happy

In reading this fine site of ours, you’ve no doubt occasionally come across the word “haptic.” What does it mean, you ask. I don’t know, I reply. But Popular Mechanics knows, and they know it so well, they’ve got nearly 2,000 words explaining why it’ll be the next big thing to hit consumer electronics. That is, once it makes its way out of the labs.

Yes, writer Daniel H. Wilson takes us on an A to Z journey on everything haptic—oh, right, what is haptic? (Or is that “haptics”?) It’s sorta like, you know how when you push a button you get that “oh man I just pushed a button” tactile feedback feeling? When using something like a touchscreen, that feeling is what haptic tech is trying to replicate via vibration. Imagine if when you were sending a text message on the iPhone, the phone would vibrate every so slightly every time you inputted a character. That’s what haptics is all about.

Now, you may be a cynical jerk like me and think to yourself, why go through all that trouble trying to replicate the sensation of pushing a button when you can, you know, just push a button? Wilson explains:

Touchscreens and touch-sensitive surfaces with haptic feedback give product designers greater flexibility. Since touchscreen devices aren’t tied to any particular layout, they can be reconfigured for each application, yet still offer the sensory feedback of physical knobs and buttons.

Well there you have it. Don’t I feel like a tool.

Expect haptics to make its way into numerous devices in the coming months and years. 3D worlds à la Second Life, so the article says, will be made easier to navigate because you can feel your way around, so to speak. The military will use it to help control remote controlled robots. Phones will use it to give that warm, button-just-pushed feeling.

Haptics, watch for it.

How Haptics Will Change the Way We Interact With Machines [PopularMechanics]