iFeelPixel homepage Activated with Immersion TouchSense Technology

Background - History - Tactile effects library

Immersion Corporation develops and licenses TouchSense technologies, which engage the human sense of touch in computing environments. Supplementing visual and audio feedback, touch gives users an improved perceptual experience. Although it is often taken for granted, touch is a highly developed human sense that is central to exploring the world, understanding information, and manipulating objects. Touch-enabled computers give software and Web page developers access to this very capable sense allowing creation of sophisticated custom sensations that make the user experience more natural, informative, engaging, and enriching. By connecting the developer's imagination with the user's sense of touch, TouchSense technologies mark a milestone in the advance of modern user interfaces.

People distinguish a remarkable range of sensations with their hands. A touch-enabled device such as a mouse, joystick, gamepad, or other computer peripheral provides a variety of information through different tactile sensations and variations of intensity. In practice, delivering a rich array of sensations is quite difficult to achieve at a reasonable cost in such a small package. TouchSense technology, through years of expansion and refinement since its inception in 1993, proves its worthiness in product after product.

Personal computer user interfaces have progressed dramatically since 1983 when monitors displayed white or green characters on black backgrounds. To this monocolor character interface, computer manufacturers added rudimentary monocolor graphics and sound. Over time, these additions matured to become fine color graphics and high fidelity sound. All of these features that were once expensive and considered unnecessary for general users are now standard and indispensable. Although falling prices were an important factor, these advances in user interfaces helped drive widespread adoption of computers in homes and businesses.

Operating system and application designers exploited the new user interface hardware by making the screen visually analogous to a familiar physical workplace, the "desktop." They added file and folder icons, borrowed menus from restaurants and windows from buildings. They added optional sound effects to alert messages and interactive events such as dropping a file into the trash.

There is a common theme behind these efforts to remodel the computer user interface. User interface designers strive to exploit mental and physical abilities; attributes that make humans extraordinarily adept at interacting with the physical world. In other words, they work to make the desktop more like a physical desk. Making the computer less conceptual and more physical makes it easier to use and more engaging.

Designers also improved the input side of the user interface, originally modeled after a typewriter. They invented the mouse to give users the analog of a hand on the desktop. The mouse enables users to directly manipulate desktop objects: to move, stretch, or select the targets of operation, for example. After some training, direct manipulation with a mouse is much easier for most people than remembering and typing commands.

"Touching" a desktop object with a traditional mouse pointer is unlike touching a physical object with a hand in an important way: the pointer provides visual feedback but no tactile sensation. Along with the rest of the desktop, the pointer provides the look of the physical world but nothing of its feel. But why shouldn't it?

Sight and sound are two channels for communicating between computers and users; touch is a third channel. Like early computer graphics and sound hardware, devices that convey information through a user's sense of touch have traditionally been too expensive or too poor in quality for widespread adoption. Immersion Corporation brings touch technology to the mainstream by making it high in fidelity and reasonable in cost.

In this document, as well as in many of our developer tools and other documentation, the concept of "force feedback" - the addition of touch information to the human-computer interface - is referred to in a variety of ways. Immersion has developed a broad array of force feedback device technologies which feel and behave differently but which, ultimately, allow a user to interact with computer software in a physical, tactile way. Different names are used in an attempt to convey the many subtle differences in how these devices operate. Fundamentally, these varied naming conventions, including such words and phrases as "tactile feedback," "haptics," "full force feedback," "vibro-tactile," "rumble feedback," "touch-enabled," "touch-activated", and many more, all refer to different flavors of a single unified concept: the ability of a computer system, including both hardware and software, to communicate tactile content and information to a user across a broad range of applications. At Immersion we combine and unify this range of functionalities under our TouchSense™ mark.

Touch-Enabled Devices


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