Touching sounds and the future of haptic and tactile technology

* Article by Luke Dormehl
October 2013
Photo credit: Guille Soto

“Covering our entire bodies and existing as our largest perceptive organ, the potential power of skin has somehow been woefully underutilized by technologists. But with touch and gesture technologies having become increasingly ubiquitous over the past few years, the world may finally be ready for the next generation of haptic technology applications. 

Based on the Greek word haptikos–meaning “the sense of touch”–haptic technology (otherwise known as tactile feedback technology) has been around in some form for the best part of the last 50 years. Up until now, however, limited computing power and a range of other technical challenges have meant that this technology never worked as well as it could.

That may now be changing, though, thanks to the work of three groundbreaking applications which promise to use haptics to alter everything from the way we enjoy entertainment, to how we develop and build prosthetic limbs.

Has tactile technology finally come of age?


Although brain-controlled prosthetics have taken enormous strides over the past 15 years, the concept of incorporating tactile feedback (i.e. allowing a person to feel through their prosthetics) has been largely absent. And while simple advances have been made in this capacity–for instance, offering audio feedback to illustrate resistance when a prosthetic pushes an external object–these developments pale in comparison to the possibilities offered by haptic technology.

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