The word “haptic,” means pertaining to “the sense of touch” (Merriam Webster Dictionary). A haptic interface is a device which allows a user to interact with a computer by receiving tactile feedback. This feedback is achieved by applying a degree of opposing force to the user along the x, y, and z axes. These devices may be used by individuals who identify as blind or as having a visual impairment and/or who learn best through touch or kinesthetic experiences.
There are two main types of haptic devices:
- Glove or pen-type devices that allow the user to “touch” and manipulate 3-dimensional virtual objects
- Devices that allow users to “feel” textures of 2-dimensional objects with a pen or mouse-type interface
The 3-dimensional haptic devices can be used for applications such as surgical simulations and remote operation of robotics in hazardous environments.
The 2-dimensional haptic devices can be used to aid computer users by providing a slight resistance at the edges of windows and buttons so that the user can “feel” the Graphical User Interface (GUI). This technology can also provide resistance to textures in computer images which enables computer users to “feel” pictures such as maps and drawings.
Haptics has also been incorporated into simpler formats that provide more experiential information, such as “rumble packs” on video game controllers.
Haptic devices do not work alone and would need to be paired with software that programs how things feel with the glove or device. Many devices available are those available for further development by companies looking to create touch or kinesthetic experiences.
Recent research is investigating the potential for haptic devices to teach skills such as typing, reading Braille, and playing the piano.
Questions to consider when choosing a haptic device
Features and usability
- Consider the goal you are trying to accomplish – is the haptic function to provide information in another format for a specific student or to promote more general engagement or learning as part of the student experience?
- Does the information provided through the haptic device make sense to the student? Can the student interpret the information?
- What is the learning curve for the student and teacher or parent? Is there any support required to use the device?
- Is it compatible with your computer or device’s operating system? Do you need a specific driver?
- How does it connect to your computer? Is it a wired or a wireless connection? (e.g., USB, wireless, Bluetooth, etc.) What is its power source? What is the battery life of the device?
- What is the warranty available for the technology? How are repairs handled? (e.g., is there someone in your area?)
- How will you get support if you need it? (e.g., a technician in the school, a local vendor, by telephone, by email, remote access, etc.)
Manufacturers of Haptic Devices and Services
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