Recently Haptic technologies – tools that buzz, vibrate, or communicate through the skin, have begun to flourish. Car manufacturers are producing drivers’ seats that vibrate in the direction of an impending collision and Apple has developed and released a new smart watch that can deliver taps of different intensity to your wrist to communicate everything from new messages to GPS directions. So, it can be said that haptics is the next way we will interact with information.
It’s not difficult to see why innovators are looking for a new channel of communication because our eyes and ears which are the dominant modes for interacting with the digital world are almost over stimulated. Our devices constantly bombard those senses with text alerts, and audio updates. Our skin however, is an underused channel. Through this method of haptic communication, we can cut through the clutter.
There is one downside however; the white noise (many frequencies) of today’s alert sphere is cut through by vibrations, but just as more traffic lights increase waiting time, so does a new channel of alerts, which could become an attractive target for overuse. One could argue that we would like to see app makers actually reduce the number of pings we get. The idea here is to create non-invasive communication between our devices and us.
It seems that the most interesting use of haptics will not be alerts to view something online, rather a potential new way of communication. Google has designed BuzzWear , a wristband that vibrates three small buzzers in 24 different patterns. With less than an hour of practice, people were able to differentiate between the patterns 99% percent of the time.
The new haptic alphabet could take over from emojis , a language supplement with the ability to express through short bursts. Haptic technologies have almost limitless applications, we have spent thousands of years with traditional mediums such as pens and paper, soon we will learn to communicate through the skin.