3 Billion Devices have Touch

In the month of June, Immersion celebrated a big milestone. The company announced that 3 billion digital devices have launched using Immersion’s haptic technology. With the world now paying attention to haptics and the world of touch, expectations are high. Haptic technology is poised to change how we interact with the digital world around us, but when and how?

There are three big trends that will be altered by the mass adoption of haptics and simultaneously drive its growth: Immersive Entertainment, the Connected World, and Virtual Communications.

Immersive Entertainment
With entertainment going mobile, more people are seeking content and games whenever they have a moment to spare and content services and game developers have experienced substantial growth over the last five years. This has been both a blessing and a curse for the entertainment industry. The limits of the mobile devices and screen size have challenged content creators, who now have the potential to tap into a larger global audience, but must do so on a five-inch screen.

However, as they did with the rise of big screen TVs and home entertainment, the audience will soon realize that they are missing a huge part of the experience. They will become more nostalgic for the immersive experience of a movie theater and/or live events. People will come to understand that a sense of presence makes a difference in the experience. This is where haptics come in. Haptic technology’s emerging role in advertising and short form content on mobile is just a start to realizing the more immersive experience that the entertainment industry has been trying to fulfill with high definition sound and advanced visual projection technology, such as 3D or Ultra HD. Achieving this immersive experience is becoming more feasible and less expensive for the consumer with haptic technology.

Virtual Communications
Similar to entertainment, the way that we are communicating with our friends and family has changed dramatically over the last 20 years. We no longer dial the phone and in many instances, the telephone line is now a wireless/virtual phone line. The positive outcome of this global proliferation of mobile devices is that friends and family are in constant contact across small and great distances through text message, social media, group chat, etc. Yet, these very basic forms of communication have limited our emotional expressions to short sentences and stickers.

Touch is the most expressive and intimate form of communication. Although we will need to take some small steps, such as enhancing stickers and emoticons with tactile effects so that they can fulfill the true meaning behind messages, there is no denying that haptics has a role in the future of virtual communication. It will provide a method of closeness in communication that is missing in today’s convenient technology devices.

The Connected World
Digital technology and the internet is driving the reinvention of everything in our daily lives. With every passing day, digital technology promises to make our mundane task more efficient and easier to manage. According to Gartner, “4.9 billion connected things will be in use in 2015, up 30 percent from 2014, and will reach 25 billion by 2020.” The one thing that has not yet been heavily considered in this growth calculation is how we as humans can handle the cognitive load that comes with more devices communicating to us through various means. Touch notifications may prove to be a much more efficient, private, and intuitive way for us to interact with our digital device. However, it is important to note that we need to be careful not to overtax touch as just a second language that can be programmed and memorized. The interaction with touch will need to be designed in a way that leverages human, natural understanding of touch signals – something that we’ve learned over our lifetime.

There is a bright future for the human sense of touch in the digital world. We’re ready for the world to embrace (literally) touch as a part of their digital experience.