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Dean Donaldson

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Getting a Hold of Haptics

Posted: 11/05/2012 09:37

As we start to look beyond traditional computing devices for media consumption and social networking, one trend that is worth keeping your eye (or maybe we should say your hand?) on is haptics.

This is the concept of giving a response back to a user that instead of the sense of sight and hearing, takes advantage of touch or a tactile response.

From gaming (Wii-mote anyone) to mobile phones (small vibrations while typing or even the vibration of a new email or text). With more touchscreen devices on the market we are seeing more industrial designers utilize haptics.

There was some speculation that Apple was going to take advantage of a patent they filed centred around haptics with the launch of the third generation iPad, but alas that didn't materialise. Though some folks are already speculating the iPhone 5 may incorporate something more than the simple alert vibrations found in the iPhones of today.

Even Nokia has filed a patent earlier this year that would essentially allow for magnetic ink to be embedded on a user's skin via a sticker or even a tattoo that would vibrate once triggered from a smartphone. Think about that for a second. Imagine what a full-sleeve of vibrating tattoos would feel like. At least I know I'd never miss another phone call or text from my wife when I'm out at a noisy venue.

Our brain's are an open source platform ready for us to hack.

So beyond the cool, geeky technology factor, why are scientists and developers looking at haptics as an opportunity for innovation? Well, there have been numerous studies that show how the human brain is able to interpret visual representations through what they feel and essentially rewire what we perceive (or what we don't perceive). From feedback on which way is North, to discerning objects we can't see, or even more complex experiments such as navigating mazes.

Have you ever wanted to feel something on the Internet?

Think about a world where a user can feel a product. Or how about a brand? No longer are the days of surveying users and asking them how they feel about a brand or message, but rather how the brand feels to them. Why do people still want to go into a store and see a product -- because they want to touch it, try it on, and see how it fits for them. Soon they will be able to do that without ever leaving their home or office.

And while I am not sure too many folks (at least in the very near future) would get tattoos or wear a five-pound belt that would allow for tactile feedback, we need to think about a culture where the idea of a personal device is removed from the equation completely and humans become even more integrated with technology. This pervasiveness and inclusion in our lives will lead to ways for marketers to connect with consumers and potential customers in a whole new way. And for consumers to expand their senses beyond what they thought was possible.

If scientists are able to help people see with their tongue via very mild electrical shocks, what's to say an ingenious marketer couldn't display customized advertising this way for consumers? Even on a simpler basis, brands created jingles that have lived on way past the duration of a particular ad campaign - in the near future could we see (or feel) a vibrating jingle that resonates with consumers more than any melody or lyrical hook?

(Article written with Ryan K Manchee, MediaMind Director of Innovation Strategy. Do follow Ryan on Twitter - @rmanchee)

 

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