Enabling Haptic Experiences Anywhere, Anytime
PubDate: April 2023
Teams:University of Chicago
While seminal screen-based computing technologies (e.g., desktop or VR/AR headsets) have evolved to respond to users’ needs for extreme freedom and mobility, the same cannot be said about rich haptic experiences (e.g., those that allow users to feel touch and forces). In my research I trace back the possible root causes to the way that haptic devices are engineered—to deliver realistic & immersive sensations, haptics devices use large actuators, which leads to two interface issues: (1) cumbersome form-factors that obstruct the user’s body and prevent users from engaging in other dexterous tasks; and (2) extreme power consumption that causes these devices to have a short-lived life or even be tethered—all of which are incompatible with the users’ needs and desires for freedom and mobility. The consequence of these two issues is that, as of now, haptics is mostly a tool for VR, but is absent from other interactive contexts, especially those where users move freely and interact with everyday tools (e.g., AR). As such, in my research I posit we need to redesign haptic devices with users in mind rather than only guided by the metric of virtual haptic realism. As such, I propose that (1) haptic devices need to play well with everyday tasks (e.g., they cannot prevent users from interacting with their loved ones or with their everyday tools), and (2) haptic devices need to be always available (without the need for bulky batteries or cables). In the following, I demonstrate two examples of wearable haptic devices that I engineered to illustrate that these goals are not just possible but desirable.