t’s common practice to introduce every article on the future of haptics with a reference to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and the popular entertainment depicted in it called the “feelies”. So now that we’ve done that, it’s worth noting that the future of haptics may actually be even more outlandish. Huxley’s feelies featured people congregating in specially dedicated theatres to experience stories where they could feel every sensation the characters felt, but global connectivity and a growing sophistication in haptics technologies may mean that in the future you’ll be able to feel your content, any place at any time – or your friends or associates, no matter where they are. Haptics – an umbrella term describing technology which uses the senses of touch and motion to simulate real physical interaction with a constructed environment – has actually been with us for a while. I remember oohing and aahing at haptic computer mice 20 years ago, which enabled you to feel your browsing experience, with little actuators indicating the borders of web pages with a subtle bump or feeling a slight but appropriate resistance when you used the scroll bar. As early as 2001, papers were being written on how force feedback haptics in computer peripherals might physically impact their users. Would haptic mice be an accelerant for RSI? (see Haptic Force-Feedback Devices for the Office Computer: Performance and Musculoskeletal Loading Issues by Jack Tigh Dennerlein and Maria C Yang, bit.ly/2IXbV1z). The Logitech iFeel mouse, launched in 2001, was a three-button scroll optical mouse with actuators powered by USB, which translated mouse movement into haptic sensations. The mouse was compatible with Internet Explorer and Netscape browsers. The technology inside the iFeel mouse was called TouchSense and was developed by one of the pioneering companies in the field, Immersion.
In a time when people are longing for the human touch, haptics is holding out a hand
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