Haptics is the science of applying touch  sensation and control to interaction with computer applications.  By using special input/output devices (joysticks, data gloves, or other devices), users can receive feedback from computer applications in the form of felt sensations in the hand or other parts of the body. It can also be used for games in which you feel as well as see your interactions with images. For example, you might play tennis with another computer user somewhere else in the world. Both of you can see the moving ball and, using the haptic device, position and swing your tennis racket and feel the impact of the ball.



Haptics offers an additional dimension to a virtual reality or 3-D environment. Haptic sensations are created in consumer devices by actuators, or motors, which create a vibration.  Those vibrations are managed and controlled by embedded software, and integrated into device user interfaces and applications. The rumble effect in your console game controller and the reassuring touch vibration you receive on your smartphone dial pad are both examples of haptic effects. Users feel the vibrating force or resistance as they push a virtual button, scroll through a list or encounter the end of a menu. In a video or mobile game with haptics, users can feel the gun recoil, the engine rev, or the crack of the bat meeting the ball.




Haptics can enhance the user experience through:

  • Improved Usability
  • Enhanced Realism
  • Restoration of Mechanical Feel

 Imagine being able to feel graphic buttons and receive force feedback as you depress a button. Some touchscreen manufacturers are already experimenting with this technology. Nokia phone designers have perfected a tactile touchscreen that makes on-screen buttons behave as if they were real buttons.

When a user presses the button, he or she feels movement in and movement out. He also hears an audible click. Everything — movement and sound — is synchronized perfectly to simulate real button manipulation.

The most sophisticated touch technology is found in industrial, military and medical applications.


Training with haptics is becoming more and more common. For example, medical students can now perfect delicate surgical techniques on the computer.


Aircraft mechanics can work with complex parts, touching everything that they see on the computer screen. And soldiers can prepare for battle in a variety of ways, from learning how to defuse a bomb to operating a helicopter or fighter jet in virtual combat scenarios. Haptic technology is also widely used in teleoperation, or telerobotics. In a telerobotic system, a human operator controls the movements of a robot that is located some distance away. Some teleoperated robots are limited to very simple tasks, such as aiming a camera and sending back visual images.



In a more sophisticated form of teleoperation known as telepresence, the human operator has a sense of being located in the robot’s environment.  It won’t be long before astronomers and planet scientists actually hold and manipulate a Martian rock through an advanced haptics-enabled telerobot — a high-touch version of the Mars Exploration Rover.