Force feedback is growing up. Any one who has ever played a game system like the Microsoft Xbox360 or Nintendo Wii knows what the controller with a rumble pack feels like. You get the sensation of actually driving over a curb when you play a racing game. You can feel the explosions when someone pops a grenade at you on a first person shooter. In 1997 CH Products brought a joystick to the market, followed quickly by Microsoft and Logitech, which allowed kids everywhere to slam a plane into the ground and feel it. But that was only the beginning.
The web is less than a decade away from offering us some of the same experiences, only on from your mouse. Imagine moving over this article and your mouse actually bumps when you pass over a link, or your mouse simulates the feel of being on ice when you move over an image of a frozen lake. This is called ‘tactile-feedback,’ and is a higher fidelity type of feedback that can offer the feel of fabrics and even the ‘squishyness’ of foam. Perhaps we will also have sites offering a post like this one to a visually-impaired reader via braille, which they could feel right on the mouse.
Companies, like San Jose California based Immersion, are already in production with haptic (that is the correct term for force feedback) applications for the robotics industry. Allowing a robot to ‘feel’ its environment which in turn could spur an entire new generation of robotic helpers; from the production line to the home helper-robot. Samsung has even ventured into the genre with a few force feedback enabled cell phones. With games and applications built for the phones with technology from Immersion, these phones offer rumble-like functionality on the games and tactile sensations on the touch screen. As you move over buttons on the touch screen you feel as if an actual button is sitting there.
On the e-commerce front you can quickly see that fabrics like wool and corduroy would have some strange sensations when translated to the mouse, but those uses would show themselves soon enough. Perhaps a link on a that locks your mouse when you hover over a sponsor? Hmm, I think I might need to call a patent attorney.
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