Origami unfolds as force feedback haptics

December 12, 2019 //By Julien Happich
force feedback
Researchers from EPFL’s NCCR Robotics lab have designed a novel form of force feedback haptics based on a folding origami structure which can be flattened into a highly wearable card when not in use.

Still under development to be commercialized by spin-off startup Foldaway Haptics, the so-called Foldaway device leverages well established planar manufacturing techniques such as lamination and printed-circuit microelectro-mechanical systems (PC-MEMS) to offer unobtrusive and cost-effective force feedback haptics. Two device implementations are described in the


The delta Foldaway haptics allows joystick manipulation
with 3 degrees of freedom.

Nature Machine Intelligence journal in a paper titled “A portable three-degrees-of-freedom force feedback origami robot for human–robot interactions”, a delta version and a push-button version. Both could become low-cost PC peripherals, akin to a mouse. Integrated into the touch-pad area of a laptop, the Foldaway buttons could enable users to feel the textures or the stiffness of objects as seen on screen or in virtual reality environments, accurately rendering touch sensations during interactions with virtual objects.

For the push-button version, three individual micro-motors are linked via bevelled gears to a three-legged flat structure. Each actuator imparts movements, forces and vibrations along a distinct direction slotted into the base, folding the legs along a pre-defined pattern of joints to take a 3D, button-like shape. The upper tip of this moving origami mechanism is the actual user interface, transmitting sensations and force feedback to the user’s finger to reproduce the physical interaction with objects or forms. Hall effect sensors keep track of the tip’s movements so the whole system can be controlled via a retro-feedback loop.


3D model of the delta mechanism (left). Each leg is connected to an axis of rotation driven by a direct-current motor through bevel gears. A Hall effect sensor measures the orientation of a diametrically magnetized magnet connected to the axis of rotation. The hand-held versions of the push-button (right) is built around the same sensors and actuators but sports a different spatial arrangement.


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