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Haptic Feedback in User Interfaces - Haptic Feedback in Desktop Computers, Haptic Feedback in Mobile Devices

tactile sense touch information

Definition: Haptics is a new media that deals with the sense of touch; haptic feedback is currently possible in desktop computers and mobile devices.

The use of desktop computers has traditionally been heavily based on graphical displays and manual input. Sound and speech have been widely integrated in the operating systems, but the auditory modality is still underused. When we consider how the sense of touch is presently used in user interfaces, there is a great difference in the utilization and in the level of sophistication compared to sight and vision.

Haptic Feedback in Desktop Computers

Until recently, sense of touch has mostly been used as a static property of input devices. For example, different materials and tactile markers have been used in keyboards and mice to help to use them without looking. Once a user has got experience in using a certain keyboard, it is not necessary to look at the fingers or keys any more. They can be found using tactile memory and tactile cues present in the device. However, this is only a limited use for sense of touch.

There are several high end and low end devices that produce dynamic haptic feedback to stimulate sense of touch. The high-end devices, such as SensAble PHANTOM, are able to produce very realistic tactile and force feedback sensations. These devices are often so large that they are only usable in desktop environments.

Haptics in desktop interfaces has several uses where the sense of touch can really benefit many people. Existing applications include teaching of medical operations, tele-operated remote surgery, sculpting of three-dimensional forms and inclusive applications for visually impaired people. In addition, tactile cues can be used as another information channel to the user when visual or auditory feedback is not preferred. Dividing different feedbacks for different senses helps to manage the problem of information overload.

Haptic Feedback in Mobile Devices

In mobile context haptics has a great potential for being able to mediate information without sound or visual display. Presently tactile information is only used in a very rough way as a replacement for a ring-tone in mobile devices with a vibration motor, such as mobile phones. It is, however, possible to use tactile icons that can present different classes of information. It is also possible to encode certain content in some properties of the haptic feedback, such as magnitude, frequency, duration and wave form. Many of these possibilities have not been realized in the present devices.

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