Haptic Feedback Takes UIs to Another Level

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March 11, 2014

The web has moved a long way since its birth roughly 25 years ago. Digital designers have had to move with the times, and design has had change to suit functionality and to reflect and respond to society's needs.

The death of the desktop has caused a rise in tablets, thereby causing a change to meet the needs and demands of 21st century users. As flat user interfaces for slick and effective UI design have become standard, users no longer put up with poorly designed digital interfaces. Minimalist design with a user-centric focus has emerged as the main digital design trend over the last 12 months and will continue to evolve throughout 2014.

But where is the technology headed? What challenges will designers face over the coming years as new technologies become commercially available?

Two years ago, haptic feedback for tablet and touch screen devices was revealed. This technology lets devices present a three-dimensional experience with a two-dimensional screen. This can be done through the physical sense of edges, textures, and contours experienced through a flat glass screen. The Senseg technology has been implemented to create a whole new user experience. Users can now feel textures and experience touch sensations. This innovation isn't entirely new, but it will impose a significant challenge to UI designers.

Haptic feedback technology takes advantage of the sense of touch by applying a range of motions, vibrations, and forces. This in effect creates new UI challenges. This emerging technology will also benefit and improve operator performance; using vibrations to transmit information through the control system lets users concentrate harder. However, designers will have to consider not only the visual functionality a design encompasses, but also the physical sense the design will incur. This YouTube video illustrates the haptic feedback user experience.

How long will it be before we see haptic feedback integrated into iPads and similar mobile devices? Only time will tell, but you can bet that devices makers are working on it today. By the end of the decade, haptic feedback will become an integral and common element in design studios around the world.

Alex Peters is the Marketing Executive at Leeds based digital agency Parallax in England. He also runs Experience History and is an advocate of great design and technology to improve the way we live.

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