If you've ever tried any virtual reality experience, one of the first things you notice is that you can't touch or feel anything. From birth, humans have an innate need to explore our surroundings with touch. That's why, with more and more virtual experiences being released, integrating technologies such as haptics can improve these immersive experiences significantly.
With the rise of XR in our daily lives, the way we interact digitally has constantly been evolving. Many teams and companies are adapting their technologies to include new and innovative ideas to capitalize on this opportunity. One of the key areas for innovation, is the addition of the sensation of touch (haptics) to these immersive experiences. Haptic technology is responsible for reproducing tactile sensations to convey a sensory illusion (vibrotactile, kinesthetic, or thermal) that is consistent with the user's virtual experience.
In the case of vibrotactile haptics, a successful implementation in experiences or products involves: the mechanical integration of the actuators, the body part involved in the experience (since sensitivity may vary), and the creation of high-quality sensations.
Developing high quality haptic sensations first requires identifying the objectives of the multisensory experience as well as the context in which the experience will be used. Once defined, haptic designers can select the appropriate sensations and the target device that will carry the multisensory experience.
Imagine designing haptic sensations for an action video game or movie on the Skinetic vest developed by Actronika. This haptic vest in particular, has 20 haptic actuators integrated for full torso coverage. Once you have selected when and where the actuators trigger an effect according to the sequences, you can playback the final haptic design in the vest. Finally, you will enjoy an immersive life-like experience, feeling the action scenes when the main character is being attacked or the thrilling feeling of sitting behind the wheel of a car during a speedy pursuit.
Now, creating a detailed haptic design may seem challenging, but it is possible when given the right tools. At Actronika, we have developed a software called Unitouch Studio that makes this process painless and with immediate high-quality results.
It is an intuitive software with a simple design workflow that can be used without being an expert in haptic design - it provides different tools to ease the composition of accurate and realistic haptic effects, instinctively perceived by users. We have elaborated and integrated a free library of more than 200 ready-to-use effects to facilitate this task. These effects are divided into different categories that contain fundamental effects for a wide variety of possible scenarios that you can play with to assemble complex haptic patterns.
Thanks to its user-friendly interface, it allows you to find the tools you need and understand the workflow easily. When working with the Skinetic vest, Unitouch Studio allows you create haptic sequences: meaning that you can choose where among the 20 actuators you want to play the effect as well as when the effect is going to be played.
You can easily identify haptic sensations arranged in categories before dragging them to the timeline. Once you have placed your sensations into the timeline, you have complete control over modifying the sensation to suit your experience.
After you have completed your haptic design, you can integrate it into your experience with Skinetic SDK. This SDK allows triggering the haptic effects in the vest that were designed in Unitouch Studio.
Skintech SDK is available for Windows and OSx and can be used directly in C or C++.
Plugins for Unreal and Unity engines are also available.
We know this is a lot of information to digest, but don't worry, check out the detailed tutorials to become an expert haptic designer with us!