Traditionally, computers usually provide visual interaction with the users whereby data, words, or images on the screen translate movements into user’s actions. Mouse and keyboard are used to input commands but they don’t give feedback to the user about the actions taken. Haptics offer feedback to computer users about the physical movements and properties of virtual things that a computer represent. They integrate both touch and motion aspects of applications that create physical properties such as resistance, friction, and weight. Haptics technology transmits information about those properties through an interface, allowing a user to feel the actions on the screen.
Where to use it
Haptics can be applied in various settings such as education to train concepts in particular methods. For instance, students can learn physics through a virtual environment such that they feel physical properties of objects and the forces which act on them. Devices that feature haptics technology can be used by students to experience what they are experimenting and demonstrate elements like friction, gravity, momentum, and forces acting on objects. Students can also manipulate models of microscopic and molecular structures created by haptic devices during training in biology and chemistry subjects. Basically, haptics can assist students to understand how things functions even without interacting with images or words about such objects.
How it works
Haptics utilize dedicated hardware to give sensory feedback, which creates physical properties. It can take various forms, but the basic configuration utilizes distinct mechanical connections to link user’s fingers to an interface of a computer. If fingers of the user are moved, sensors will translate the motion into actions on the screen while motors transfer feedback to the user’s fingers through the linkages. For example, a user can feel the weight and texture of a ball on the screen by touching the device. Since the ball is in a virtual environment, altering the characteristic of the environment or the ball itself, the user can feel the new weight or texture of the ball in another environment. This technique can be applied to know physical properties of an object when in another environment such as moon.
Significance of haptics
There is more hidden information that is inaccessible when people are interacting with computers. Computers basically can process and provide vast amount of information, which can be accessed by people through the five senses. However, computers have only managed to give information to people based on two senses – visual and sound. Haptics can be used to get rid of the challenge of accessing the hidden information by incorporating another communication channel of touch sense – sensory feedback. Students can now engage in learning more skills and ideas by relying on what they touch and feel rather than what they see and read.
Future of haptics technologies
Experts are constantly developing and refining different types of haptic interfaces with aim of enhancing more interactive techniques of communication between humans and computers. Computer scientists will continue looking for better ways to make haptics more reliable to learners, and improve how people can learn through experiencing things. Advanced hardware will also allow production of even portable haptic devices that will be available for all users.