Haptics can be defined as technology relating to the sense of touch and motion. As discussed in our previous post, augmented reality is not just about visual information but can encompass so much more. If we are going to create a virtual world in our future, we must have ways to interact with that world using our physical body. It is absolutely possible to integrate all of our senses for a life-changing augmented reality experience. 

Touch has a fantastic way of substantiating something and making it feel like it truly exists. With tools like a virtual stylus, humans can touch and interact with an augmented experience. However, as more advanced technology begins to roll out, a stylus is not even needed. 

Companies such as Ultaleap are making bold moves towards a future with touch integration. They have created a way to feel and manipulate objects without the need for gloves or a stylus. Using ultrasound speakers, which emit ultrasound waves at high frequencies, they produce enough force for you to feel a tiny dent in your skin. This pressure point creates an impact that touch sensors in your skin can detect– thus creating the sensation of touch in mid-air! 

Haptics in AR have strong use cases in aquariums and museums. In fact, Ultraleap has paired with the Aquarium of the Pacific, a non-profit organization, to apply this technology for a fascinating interaction. Per the press release, Ultraleap’s technology, allows users to feel (without touching anything) what is being shown on screen: a wave splash, the blades of a windmill rotating or foam bubbles bursting. This type of experience is highly engaging and rewarding for visitors with visual or hearing disabilities.”

Haptics in augmented reality also has profound implications in the medical field. Specifically, for surgery where accuracy is crucial to the success of the procedure. Haptic perceptions allows surgeon to recognize objects through touch and provide immediate tactile feedback. This feedback can be delivered at the right time, minimizing ambiguity. Surgeons can take advantage of AR head-mounted gear to get access to real-time information for fewer mistakes. 

Companies like ImmersiveTouch, combine haptic and AR/VR tools to educate and train surgeons before they perform operations on a patient. Amazingly enough, this technology generates replicas from the patient scans so the surgeons can study exact data to perfect the final process. Other opportunities exist in training, by presenting 3D organs or body parts and tactile feedback as the surgeon “virtually operates” using the system. 

Enormous potential exists for the field of haptics and augmented reality. As humans,  our senses of touch, vision, and hearing combine to make our world more engaging. We must think about how technology can replicate the unique human experience and provide more opportunities for growth and advancement–using our senses.


Where do you think haptics have opportunities for growth in AR?