CES 2013: Take a Look into the Future of Haptic Feedback

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Haptic feedback is one of those features that we take for granted. Whenever our mobile devices vibrate, we respond to whatever notification we have and keep moving. Most people don’t think about the technology that enables haptic feedback and what can be done to make it better. Strategic Polymers on the other hand, wants to usher in the next generation of haptic technology with what it calls Electro Mechanical Polymers or EMP.

The EMP is very small. It weighs less than 0.1 grams and is less than a tenth of a millimeter thick. This unassuming piece of technology is so small, it can be integrated into mobile devices without adding any noticeable weight or thickness. Strategic Polymers is hoping device manufacturers use this technology in their future products. If that happens, Strategic Polymers foresees a few scenarios where its EMPs can be used.

One of its concept devices is called the Awake Haptic Keyboard. The intention behind this keyboard is to make it a replacement for physical keyboards on smartphones and other devices. Since the EMPs are so small and thin, the overall device can be made thinner as well. The company also says its EMPs can bend 2mm from a flat surface. That means you get the impression of traditional physical keys without actually having traditional physical keys. Feedback is still given when keys are pressed.

The other concept product that was shown off is called the Backtouch for smartphones. Backtouch allows just that – touching the back of your phone to perform a specific action. Christophe Ramstein, the CEO of Strategic Polymers, said it’ll be up to OEMs to decide how to implement Backtouch from a design perspective. Examples of Backtouch working with apps include map navigation, ebook reading and even a customized launcher (likely for Android). The idea behind the navigation app is you won’t have to keep looking at your device to know where you’re supposed to go. Instead, haptics will vibrate in specific areas of the phone to tell you to turn left and right. When reading an ebook, your fingers on the back of the phone can handle functions such as page turning and zooming. The same concept applies to the launcher. You’ll be able to use more than your thumb when navigating around your phone because of Backtouch. I can really see this being useful on phablets since it’s nearly impossible to reach areas of the touchscreen with the thumb alone.

Strategic Polymers isn’t directly selling any of the devices you see in this post. They’re just trying to get other companies to implement their technology. From there, it’ll up to the development community to come up with some really unique uses for it.

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