Future Tech: Haptics

It’s a type of technology that’s been featured in a long assortment of futuristic science-fiction movies and TV programs, and now it has arrived for use in specific situations, right here in our reality.  We’re talking about Haptics technology of course, and its use has grown in popularity over the course of the last few years.  In fact, people are doing some things with Haptics right now that will likely blow your mind.

First off (for those of you who are still in the dark), what is Haptics technology?  In short, Haptics deals with touch feedback, or in other words, you receive a biometric response to touching some surface.  A great (but perhaps primitive) example of this would be the vibration capabilities you’d find in any video game controller.

Haptics is currently being applied to a wide range of fields, many of which will likely fundamentally alter the way we live, work and play.  For example, one of the most obvious applications for this tech would be in the video game world (which is a multi-billion dollar industry in its own right).  Just imagine how incredibly awesome it would be to integrate 3D VR (headset / wrap-around visor) technology with that of Haptics and enhanced environmental simulation systems.  You could literally create a virtual world for gamers that would be completely immersive.  Well, it’s being done; even as you read this there are companies that are working on immersive systems for video gaming that incorporate Haptics.  Specifically, Haptics is being used to deliver force feedback and intricate responsiveness to gamers.  Geomagic is a company that many consider to be a major force on this particular front; they are also applying this technology to medical-based training programs.

Speaking of the medical field; firms like Kinea Design are applying Haptics technology in new and extremely useful ways.  Perhaps one of the most ground-breaking applications for this tech is in the area of assisted surgery.  Given the precision nature of surgical operations, Haptics could play a very important role.  In essence, Haptics would be used to provide instantaneous feedback to surgeons so that they can avoid making mistakes (such as miscalculating the depth of certain tissues, etc.).  Likewise, they’re also working on fully integrated prosthetic devices which are able to fully simulate human appendages!  How is this possible?  Basically, a person would wear a prosthetic device which measures factors like friction, pressure and texture; that information in turn is fed into the nerve endings.

Similarly, researchers at the University of Texas (Dallas) are working on another medically sound use of Haptics.  Their application of Haptics deals with remote sensing and control.  In other words, they hope to create a system whereby doctors could remotely perform basic rehabilitation procedures and/or gather real physical data about a patient, but from a remote location.  Needless to say, this approach could revolutionize modern medicine in several ways, especially when you consider that they’re planning on integrating this form of Haptics technology with 3D imaging.  This is a speculative assumption, but it’s possible that very soon, we might be able to receive basic health examinations remotely or even virtually (with advanced A.I. assuming the role of the physician!).

On a more down-to-Earth note, companies like Tactonic Technologies are producing touch screen “skins” which will be able to incorporate Haptics at a very basic level.  In other words – soon, all mobile devices and touch-screen-enabled devices will feature the technology.  In this way, tactile feedback can be gathered by the user immediately.  Naturally, the addition of such capabilities will give software and hardware designers new capabilities to play around with.  Just imagine what the apps of the future will look like with an assortment of advanced technologies like Haptics driving them.  

Clearly, Haptics technology can be applied in an almost staggering number of ways.  Given this reality, one must ask the question at some point – “how is this going to transform employment within the IT and technical worlds?”  To put it bluntly, businesses in a wide variety of fields are going to begin looking for ways to use Haptics.  Moreover, this will lead to increased competition in this area.  A noted side-effect of increased rivalry is bigger investments; in other words, companies are going to begin looking for ways to expand upon the basic uses of Haptics technologies as well as hire specialists who deal in this area.  Needless to say, this could be a big opportunity for certain IT professionals or careerists who have an interest in Haptics.  What would you need to take advantage of this opportunity?  Ideally, a person would want to engage a complete certification course that deals specifically with Haptics; however, there are also some great training books and programs that deal with the subject that can help you.

Perhaps the question we should be asking is “why haven’t we seen Haptics technology emerge until this point in time?”  After all, the sense of touch is one of the most immediate and enduring human senses; you’d think that we would have incorporated some form of technology to reinforce this most immediate sense much earlier.