Haptics is ready for standardization

March 11, 2020 //By Yeshwant Muthusamy
Haptic technology is gaining traction, but with increased adoption comes market fragmentation. The time is now for the standardization of haptic technology. But what approach is the right one?

With new use cases in markets such as gaming, Internet of Things, PC, and virtual reality, there’s an increasing demand for richer haptic experiences. High-definition (HD) haptics, with effects ranging from subtle to sharp, textured effects that simulate different surfaces and sensations, and increasingly efficient vibration motors, are becoming the norm in many products already on the marketplace.

As excited as we all are about haptic technology coming into its own, it’s difficult to ignore a serious problem that comes with this increased adoption—market fragmentation. Different proprietary APIs, different hardware-to-software interfaces, and different motor characteristics effectively create “walled gardens,” making it difficult for application developers to incorporate haptics easily into their applications. Worse, they must repeat the exercise for multiple platforms and devices.

Changes to lower levels of the haptic stack (e.g., replacing the vibration motor) typically necessitate changes to the upper levels (e.g., the codecs and APIs used). The high cost of such changes often discourages OEMs and stifles innovation. This ultimately hurts adoption by end users, the most important link in the haptic value chain.


Need for standardization

Fig. 1: Immersion’s definition of the haptic stack.

This is where standardization can help. Standardized APIs, standardized evaluation criteria for haptics, and standardized vibration motor performance ranges, to name a few, can only help harmonize haptic offerings from different vendors—without compromising vendor differentiation. This, in turn, will incentivize content and application creators to incorporate richer haptic experiences into their offerings, leveraging the standard interfaces throughout the stack.

Current walled gardens will give way to a flourishing haptic ecosystem that benefits all stakeholders. In other words, the time is indeed right for standardization across all layers of the haptic technology stack (see figure 1).

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