Haptic Technology: The Next Breakthrough Computing Tech

Computer processing power, as you know, has been growing exponentially for decades. Our means of interacting with computers, however, have changed little since they first appeared. Computers still convey information to users almost exclusively through sight and sound, speakers and screens. We still give information to computers mostly through keyboards, track pads and mouse devices.

But with the development of 3-D virtual worlds (VWs), expect a boom in haptic technology, aka “computer touch”. Haptics adds touch feedback to our means of communicating with the digital world. This is one of the technologies that will fundamentally change computing, because touch is so critical to our everyday lives.

In advanced simulations, users can touch and feel desks, walls, steering wheels, scalpels and catheters, as well as the tissue they affect, using robotic mechanisms to convey sensations that feel like the real world. Already, crude attempts have been made to bring tactile information to gaming. The Wii’s and Sony PlayStation controller’s primitive vibrations are examples.

All of these haptic applications take place in 3-D virtual worlds. It is critical that you understand that these worlds are coming fast to your PC. They will not only be gaming environments. They will be educational, productivity and social apps. Your computing experience will transform from a series of flat walls to 3-D offices with intuitive storage spaces as well as conferencing rooms for business and recreation.

Such 3-D haptic technologies have been available for a while, but costs have limited their usage to those who can afford mainframes. For the first time, however, a serious haptic foray is being made into VWs at PC costs.

Patrick Cox
for The Daily Reckoning