Could Haptic Interfaces Pull Wearables Forward?

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According to two Japanese researchers, haptic interfaces (technology that you feel) has huge potential for future devices, including wearables. This month, the team of Tomohiro Amemiya and Hiroaki Gomi will present two devices that generate a force illusion at this year’s SIGGRAPH technology conference.


Force Illusions basically boil down to haptic interfaces, such as vibrations, that feel like you’re being pushed or pulled by an invisible force. While this might not be easily imaginable without experiencing the force, the power of the illusion is apparently powerful enough to guide a blindfolded person along a path and around corners.


The two devices that Amemiya and Gomi will be presenting are the Buru-Navi3, and the Traxion. The Buru-Navi3, which began as the size of a novel and needed a crank-shaft, is now the size of a wine cork and runs on 40-hertz electromagnetic actuator similar to those found in smartphones. Essentially, when the device is squeezed between the thumb and forefinger, the device creates a continuous illusion in one direction. The Traxion creates a force illusion as well, but is done via an asymmetrically vibrating actuator that is held between the fingers.


The potential for wearables lies in these devices’ ability to create this strong illusion, making it perfect for guiding. Additionally, Amemiya goes on to say that “A wearable system is always on, so it records data constantly… This can be very useful for understanding human perception.” However, the devices currently need more contact than simply resting on a wrist. In order for the devices to garner enough power, they need strong interaction, such as pinching the device.


For more information on their research, check out MIT Technology Review’s article on the Buru-Navi3 and the Traxion.

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Tags: Apps, Smart Clothing, Smartwatches


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