Immersion Creates TouchSense Tactile Feedback for Portable Devices

Immersion Corporation (NASDAQ:IMMR), a leading developer and licensor of touch feedback technology, announced TouchSense(R) tactile feedback for portable devices, technology that provides confirming tactile response to user touchscreen interactions, which can solve usability problems and enhance the user experience. The technology can be licensed by OEMs and system integrators and embedded into handheld electronics, such as personal navigation devices, remote controls, portable games, media players, test equipment, and mobile data terminals.

“Because of their intuitive operation, software flexibility, and space and cost savings, touchscreens have been steadily gaining favor over keypads,” says Mark Belinsky, vice president and general manager of Immersion’s Mobility and Gaming group. “And though touchscreens offer many benefits, the loss of tactile feedback when a user makes an onscreen selection can create usability problems. TouchSense technology helps solve these problems and supplies a new and unique feature that people like — and a powerful differentiator.”

How the TouchSense System Works
Comprising circuit and mechanical specifications, firmware, APIs, and vibration, or tactile “effect” libraries, TouchSense technology provides high-speed control over a small electromechanical actuator, like those in mobile phones.

Using the TouchSense API, the portable device’s software application is programmed to respond to touch input by making calls to the TouchSense executable, running in the background on the host processor. The executable generates signals through the Immersion-specified drive circuit, which controls the vibrations of the actuator, mounted to the side or rear of the device’s display. These finely tuned vibrations create sensations that can feel to the user like a button press or release.

Benefits and Solved Problems
Tactile feedback provides unmistakable confirmation for the user. These intuitive confirmations solve a number of problems associated with operating small touchscreen devices:

  • In portable devices, small onscreen controls can be obscured by fingers
  • In direct sunlight, graphical changes cannot be seen clearly
  • In noisy environments, sound cues cannot be heard well
  • In quiet environments, audible cues may be inappropriate
  • In distractive environments, the user can’t always be looking at the screen

But with tactile cues, which can also be synchronized with audible and visual prompts, these usability problems can be minimized.

In addition to helping solve usability problems, research(a) shows that tactile feedback in the human-machine interface (HMI) supplies an essential component. It provides a quantifiable effect on efficiency, error rate, and user satisfaction. Findings show that a significant quantity of information can be conveyed through touch, not just simple notifications. The touch channel may be particularly well suited for providing particular types of information: private, immediate, dynamic, and confirming. And touch has been found to provide a highly effective secondary channel that supports peripheral or subconscious communications, leaving the other senses better able to focus on primary tasks. In addition, several studies show that users strongly prefer tactile feedback in the HMI — because it helps improve their performance and makes them feel more in control.

The TouchSense system works with touchscreens up to about 15 cm (6 in) diagonal, or 7 ounces, and is compatible with a wide range of commercial touchscreen-sensing technologies. Immersion also supplies similar technology for larger touchscreen designs.

(a)The Value of Haptics: A summary of recent published findings on the value of haptic feedback in human-computer interaction. Immersion Corporation, 2007.

About Immersion
Founded in 1993, Immersion Corporation is a recognized leader in developing, licensing, and marketing digital touch technology and products. Using Immersion’s advanced touch feedback technology, electronic user interfaces can be made more productive, compelling, entertaining, or safer. Immersion’s technology is deployed across automotive, entertainment, industrial controls, medical training, mobility, and three-dimensional simulation markets. Immersion’s patent portfolio includes over 600 issued or pending patents in the U.S. and other countries.

Immersion, the Immersion logo, and TouchSense are trademarks of Immersion Corporation in the United States and other countries.