Sensing data with haptic displays

Sensing data with haptic displays

Technology News |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

“Haptic displays transmit information through the skin by vibration or pressure. This can be a Smartwatch that uses vibration to draw our attention to an incoming message, or a mobile phone that navigates us through vibration patterns from our trouser pockets,” says Erik Pescara of KIT’s Telecooperation Office (TECO) research group. But haptic feedback devices can do much more: TECO develops haptic assistance systems for complex control tasks. Possible application scenarios for the VibrAID system can be found, for example, in the control rooms of power plants or transport networks. There, large amounts of relevant data are often displayed on video screens. Although such dashboard systems can be configured individually, users may not find the currently relevant information quickly enough to optimally control the system.

“We want to relieve the visual sense by using the haptic sense to draw attention to relevant events,” says Vincent Diener, who develops VibrAID at TECO. “A portable system informs the user about important changes or events in the dashboard with the help of prelearned vibration patterns”. The user’s attention is thus less stressed and he can concentrate better on other tasks. “A server runs in the background to monitor whether, for example, the system exceeds a guideline value,” explains Diener. “If there is one, the system sends the information to the user’s smartphone. The smartphone then forwards the corresponding data to the wearable via Bluetooth and triggers the vibration impulses. VibrAID consists of a wrist cuff equipped with ten small vibration modules. Using the control room of an energy supplier as an example, the scientists are now setting up a realistic study environment at KIT to test the system there.

The haptic technologies developed by TECO show that there are more intelligent ways of interacting between humans and machines than displaying data only via monitors and loudspeakers. The TECO scientists’ vision: In the future, haptic displays could support us in everyday life and at work as normally as a computer screen today.

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