The next phase in the evolution of technology is haptics; applications that enable users to operate devices and machines without touching them. In the current paradigm, haptic technologies such as 3D virtual reality (VR) uses joysticks, steering wheels and gloves. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has pinned a giant question mark over the health and safety issues of using objects that can feasibly transfer diseases and viruses from one person to another.
Increased awareness of cleanliness and health will heavily influence the development of emerging technologies. Subsequently, we are perched on the cusp of a life-changing revolution.
Haptics – The Hygienic Solution
Modern technology has made a significant contribution to patient care. Digital healthcare records and VR training simulators are already prevalent throughout the medical industry. However, recent technologies rely on computer devices with screens and peripherals that are handled by multiple users. The outbreak of Covid-19 has underscored the potential risk of spreading pathogens using shared equipment.
With an increased focus to control infections, multiple organisations are exploring the possibility of developing hygienic technologies throughout society. Multiple research papers are exploring the possibility of touchless interfaces that enables medical personnel to interact with computer equipment without having to use their hands.
What Does Touchless Technology Look Like?
Touchless technology involves using biometric data, gesture and ultrasound to operate machines without the need to physically touch them. Devices will include haptics and a mix of motion tracking with hands, arms, finger, eyes and legs together with voice recognition.
3D hands-free interaction will enable users to have higher accessibility to machines even when they physically have their hands full. For example, in medical environments, surgeons holding surgical tools can access critical information or manipulate a medical image without having to interrupt the operation. Radiologists often have their hands full of wires and catheters. Ultraleap, one of the leading tech-startups developing touch technology claim “the next wave of technology is one you can feel.”
The company has manufactured portable devices that transmit ultrasonic signals that correspond with the movements of objects – or more precisely body parts. Ultrasonic pulses create a defined feeling on the hand which enables users to instantly immerse themselves with interactive technologies. In short, it means we can operate software and hardware in a very natural way. What’s more, the energy required to power ultrasonic technologies is a fraction of the cost of existing optical 3D technologies.
Haptic Applications in Public Spaces
Industries will not be the only environments that will be influenced by touchless technologies. Public facilities including ATMs, ticket dispensers, pedestrian crossings, fuel pumps and card payment systems to name a few. Even the current future of haptics involves touchscreen technologies and graspable devices such as joysticks.
Given touch will no longer be an option when multiple users are involved, the only alternative is wearables and motion sensors. Even wearables would have to be individually owned. Retina scanners are already being used in security devices and can be used to voluntarily open doors without touching the handle. Eye-tracking and motions sensors can also be combined to perform on-screen tasks in various settings.
A cashless society will mean a universal installation of haptic-operated interfaces in shops, banks, and all forms of public transport. Petrol stations will install aviation-style fuel pumps that connect with cars. Payment will be made via a camera-operated application that reads car registration plates connect to a bank card. Vibration will play a central role in the haptic illusion. Pulsating devices that interact with the skin can deliver sensation-delivered messages.
The Future of Haptics
We may only be on the precipice of a haptic revolution, but we are already witnessing early signs of an entirely touchless future. The recent pandemic has flagged up the urgency for a change in how we interact with technologies in public environments and the workplace. However, a complete overhaul of existing hardware is not feasible. Haptics, on the other hand, provides a feasible solution because it can be integrated with common devices such as computers, smartphones, TVs and cars.
Virtual reality and augmented reality (AR) provide touchless screens for usability purposes whilst hand gestures, eye movements and speech commands prompt the operation.
Do you want to know more about how haptics and tactile feedback can be integrated into your AR and VR applications? Drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.