What is haptic display technology? Haptic technology itself is not anything new. Any gamer who has had a video game controller vibrate in his hands is familiar with the technology. Essentially, it allows feedback from a device to the person playing the video game. Although it was originally created for video game controllers, the technology is finding more in-depth uses in other areas, including science, medicine, and entertainment.


Directional Force Feedback

Imagine playing a basic game on a tablet or smartphone that involves bouncing balls. Each time one of these balls touches the ball your finger is on, you can feel it and know which direction the ball came from. This is the idea behind directional force feedback. A research group from NEC and the Tokyo Institute of Technology created a system in which a secondary screen is placed under the primary screen and is connected by small wires that move the secondary screen, which causes the screen to interact with the user. If the user hits an object on screen, for example, he/she will be able to understand where the object is just by the interaction the screen delivers. According to DigInfo.tv, “Because you can feel the direction of the force, this system could be used for navigation, for example, to let people know which way they’re going just by touching the display.”

3D Tactile Rendering

Disney researchers have found a way to send electrical shocks through the screen and into the user’s fingertips. This may sound a little barbaric, but it is very effective in creating friction on a surface. First, an algorithm determines the “depth” of the object on the screen. Then it calculates the speed of the finger moving across the area and the amount of friction that should be generated. Using the psychophysical model, the researchers can determine the amount of voltage that needs to be applied to create the right amount of friction. The higher the virtual bump is, the more friction applied to the finger.

Both of these technologies have the ability to react to a user’s touch. So, both claim that these technologies can be used for those with sight disabilities. The 3D rendering is able to take pictures of objects and determine their depth and rigidity. This, again, can be used by the vision impaired to help with evaluating objects in their environment.

Although haptic technology is not new, haptic display technology is. Before long, these displays will be used in tablets, smartphones, and computer monitors.