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Haptics in the Home

A few years back, I worked for a very cool company that offered haptic research equipment for engineering labs. It was great to see how people were looking to use haptics in teleoperation, simulation, and unmanned vehicle settings. (haptics is the transmission of the sense of touch)

However, it never occurred to me until recently that there is a lot of room for haptics in the home. This comes in the control of different inputs that can be reconfigured.

There are at least two types of haptics — tactile and kinesthetic. The former affects the feeling of a surface and the latter, the amount of force. Imagine a surface feeling rough vs smooth or a force feedback joystick. The two are very different engineering challenges but can help create new environments.

The resolution for effective haptics is fairly low in the sense that the brain can easy be tricked into thinking it’s feeling a smooth vs rough surface. The cost might be lower to incorporate at volume.

So how can this work in the home? Imagine dials with different settings and that change stiffness depending on the volume. Or tappable light switches that feel like the Apple trackpad. There are still lots of areas to explore.

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