What Is Haptic Feedback?

Haptic feedback is a type of touch technology that provides simulated physical feedback, such as the vibration of the keyboard in a smartphone. When used with virtual reality devices, haptic feedback allows the user to touch and feel something in the virtual environment that is not in the real world.

How Does Haptic Feedback Work?

Haptic feedback adds the sense of touch to the senses of sight and hearing that electronic devices predominantly use to communicate with the user. The most common form of haptic feedback currently used is vibration, usually felt by the hands. There are several types of haptic feedback technology:

  • Vibrotactile haptics — tiny motors that create vibrations
  • Ultrasonic mid-air haptics — ultrasonic waves that create the sense of force on the user’s hands
  • Microfluidics — air or liquid is pushed into tiny chambers, which creates pockets of pressure or temperature on a user’s skin
  • Force control — levers or other large mechanical devices that exert force on the hands, limbs, or full body of the user
  • Surface haptics — create tactile effects by creating friction

All haptic feedback systems have two things in common — software to determine the feedback given to the user based on the user’s moves, and an interface device that applies the feedback to the user. 

Examples of Haptic Feedback

The variety of devices that employ haptic feedback has greatly increased in the past decade. Some examples include: 

  • Teleoperation — remote-controlled robotic tools allow users to control remote environments in a variety of industries
  • Virtual environments — haptic feedback technology is applied in training simulators 
  • Driving assistive technology — haptic feedback helps notify users about known road hazards or if they are going out of their lane 
  • Personal portable devices — phones and wearables use haptic feedback for message and app notifications, as well as user functions such as typing
  • Gaming — controllers that deliver precise vibrations that go along with in-game scenarios, and haptic suits that give the user a more immersive gaming experience

How Are Haptics Used in Medical VR?

Haptics are an important component of VR in healthcare. Similar to the use of haptics in VR for entertainment, users can interact with their environment through the sense of touch. This additional interaction point is thought to be critical for full immersion and interaction in order to get a realistic perception in the virtual world. SimX provides VR training for nurses, which includes haptic feedback to increase the effectiveness of this efficient training modality. 

Future of Haptics

Haptic feedback adds a new dimension to virtual reality and the industry is projected to be worth over $19 billion by 2025. Adding the sense of touch to virtual reality experiences is expected to impact a wide array of activities, from physical rehabilitation to online shopping. Many sci-fi immersive experiences are likely to become reality in the coming decades as technology advances. Advances in haptic feedback will increase the effectiveness of virtual reality training simulations. Visit SimX to learn more about how SimX uses VR for over 150 different healthcare patient models.