Screens with Feeling


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Presented at SCREENS 2013 in Toronto.
Details at
with Bob Heubel

Touchscreens have become the default UI in mobile devices, but with their adoption the lack of a tactile response is a common complaint. We find that not being able to feel simple UI elements like a button input is actually a big deal.

In this session Immersion’s Haptic Expert Team will explain some of the science behind why our sense of touch is so important to mobile interactions as well as give you practical steps to follow when designing tactile feedback into your software projects. Haptics (vibration touch feedback) powers intuitive experiences from touch inputs to game content to interactive communications. Haptics can add a sense of realism which is generally unexpected in mobile applications.

Audience members will also learn the standard methods used to add tactile effects to mobile projects as well as an extended method used by Android developers like Sega and Rockstar Games to add a pre-made library of over 124 tactile effects into their Android projects. Hands-on mobile demonstrations will also be provided.

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  • Agenda – I will answer these questions for you todayWho is Immersion?What does touch feedback or tactile design mean?Why is touch feedback essential to the mobile UI?How can touch feedback be applied to better the UX?What are the best design practices for tactile feedback?What are touch feedback methods across platforms?What are the biggest design hurdles and how can they be dealt with?What is the extended vibration method for Android?What are some additional tactile design resources?
  • Immersion is the leader in haptic technology.Our tactile touch feedback technology, also known as Haptics, has shipped in over a billion mobile and gaming devicesSome of our hardware partners that make these tactile feedback products include: Samsung, Motorola, LG, Toshiba, Fujitsu, Sony, Microsoft, Logitech and many othersImmersion is an intellectual property company with many patents. It is these patents that our partners license when they create hardware with tactile touch effect capabilityAnd Immersion has offices around the world to support our hardware and content development partners
  • All of these devices have vibration motors in them that allow developers to give touch feedback feeling to their users. I’ll explain why this is important and some design guidelines.
  • This is a representation of how much of our cerebral cortex is used to process our sense of touch across different parts of our body.Notice how much processing is done through our hands.This is why touch feedback design is so critical to touch screen interactions and the mobile userexperience. Our sense of touch is how we perceive the world around us, including virtual mobile screen environments for applications and games.
  • Everyone in this room is probably familiar with vibration technology in mobile devices, even for just simple vibration alerts. But the technology itself doesn’t tell us what it’s good for. To understand what it’s good for, we need to look at what touch perception meansto people. When we look at tactile touch metaphors, this picture becomes more clear: Tactile touch feedback is intimate, immediate, and emotional with an emphasis on communication. More than other sensory metaphors of sight or sound, tactile touch metaphors are used to express subtleties of feeling and attitude.
  • There is a “disconnect” between our most basic of life experiences and digital media. Digital media isolates us.Constance Classen, whom I’ll paraphrase here said, “We live in a society of the image, in which there is often nothing actually there to feel. The inability to touch the subject matter of the images that surround us…, produces a sense of alienation, the feeling of being out of touch with one’s society, one’s environment. Where more and more the user becomes an isolated fragment in an indifferent universe.”Does anyone here look engaged with the world around them, much less the person right next to them? No, and this is exactly where tactile feedback can help to bring back a more emotional and realistic connection to the user experience. And I’ll show you some tactile design use cases that aim to accomplish this goal of a more emotional and realistic experience.
  • Let’s start at the most basic level of touch screen feedback.This is a button, right? It looks like a button. And when I press it, it can sound like a button. But without a tactile touch feeling this virtual button this is a very different experience than pressing a real mechanical button.This is why most mobile hardware manufacturers, like Samsung, Motorola, and Fujitsu add a tactile touch vibration event to their touchscreen QWERTY keyboard to better simulate a real button click feel that completes the user experience of seeing, hearing and feeling the button like we would expect in a real world keyboard or keypad.
  • As I said, tactile touch feedback is immediate, emotional and intimate with an emphasis on communication.When we have a “feeling” [“deep down”] about something, even if it may contradict what we have “heard”, or what we “see right in front of our eyes”, we are told to trust our “feeling”--because it’s the most reliable source of truth.So, in the most basic level of the user experience, good tactile touch design is really about adding “truth” to your user experience. Take a Facebook poke, for example. It’s not a real poke but simply a text-based message. Now, if you associate a tactile response with the poke, suddenly you feel that message. And that tactile response need not be disruptive. It need not be a strong buzz event. Remember, by using tactile feedback you’ve entered a user’s personal space, so be respectful and not annoying.For example, you could use a subtle tap, tap, tap patterned tactile response like someone tapping you on your shoulder. This would be much better received by the user.
  • The mobile platform and computers in general are not good at providing intimate or emotional communication. We have to create workaround solutions like a smiley face emoticon in emails to express the underlying emotional meaning of our words. Tactile feedback can express intimacy and emotion without such work around abstractions like emoticons.For example, if my wife sent me a message with the tactile feeling of a heartbeat being played, I’d feel that intimacy and emotion and immediately understand the loving tone of her message. The point here is that we can use tactile effects to make the device feel more expressive and usable. And if it feels more usable, it IS more usable.
  • So to summarize, our three main goals when designing tactile feedback effects in our mobile design are: To make the phone (feel) more usable thru such things as bringing back user interface (UI) button confirmations To make apps feel more satisfying by adding in tactile feedback effects that simulate real world touch experiences And to bring friends within arm’s reach by making communication feel more intimate as if you could literally reach through your mobile device and touch them using a simulated touch effect
  • In the console gaming space, we’ve already learned the value of tactile feedback design in in rumble pads and force feedback racing wheels.For example, when Sony introduced their PS3, they removed the Dual Shock motors from their gamepads, citing that gamers did not really want or need Haptics in their games. However, just six months later Sony changed their minds after an outcry for rumble support from their community and brought back their Dual Shock gamepads with rumble feedback effects.This same value now applies to mobile game content in games like Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto Vice City and Max Payne Mobile for Android where you can feel all different weapons firing. Or Sega’s Sonic title for Android were you can feel all of Sonic’s in-game action.
  • In this interactive pinball game example, different areas of the screen give a different tactile response when the pinball moves into them. The xylophone ramp feels different than the warp hole, which feels different than the bumpers, and so on. But the most interesting part of this good tactile design is that when the ball moves onto the second user’s screen the first user can still feel the ball. This allows users to anticipate when and where the ball will be coming back onto their screen and also keeps both players actively engaged in the game play even when the ball is visibly on their screen. Brilliant!
  • In this example we are showing one example of virtual presence between two users. Think of a Facebook “poke,” but in this case you really are entering another user’s personal space, not just sending an online message.As a user moves their finger across their screen they create a visible trail and a vibrotactile texture feeling. When the trials from both users intersect, they both feel a connection through a tactile touch confirmation effect. The result is immediate, emotional and intimate at the same time.
  • Now combine the last example with this video example and you get the inspiration for a patent I submitted years ago when I was away on business missing telling bedtime stories to my son and getting a goodnight kiss. Imagine being able to see your child, read to them and interact through virtual touch. Being able to see you child and feel a virtual goodnight kiss could do wonders for being homesick.
  • Now combine the last example with this video example and you get the inspiration for a patent I submitted years ago when I was away on business missing telling bedtime stories to my son and getting a goodnight kiss. Imagine being able to see your child, read to them and interact through virtual touch. Being able to see you child and feel a virtual goodnight kiss could do wonders for being homesick.
  • This was a concept that we turned into a real app at a recent Hackathon. It’s a clock, where you can tell the time by feeling the clock face. The clock gives a tactile bump as your fingers run over the hands. One bump for the minute hand, two bumps for the hour hand, and three bumps when the hands are on top of each other. You can check the time without looking at your watch or screen and without seeming rude. This is also useful for the visually impaired.
  • Android hardware OEMs like Samsung and mobilecarriers are looking for good feeling games as a competitive advantage against their number one competitor Apple.Google is looking for games to feature in their Play Store that are different than most games. And if you develop for both Apple and Android platforms you can benefit from the both large consumer groups while differentiating your app from the millions of other apps in the marketplace.
  • Ok, so how does one program these tactile effects into mobile apps?
  • All the mobile platforms offer some method of adding tactile feedback into your apps. But in most cases the actual tactile effect design is tedious involving programming of specific motor on/off durations and motor intensity levels. Or in the case of iOS, you are only allowed to call a set duration buzzing effect.Because of this, few mobile developer have made the effort to add tactile feeling beyond keyboard or keypad applications. This is why my company has looked into methods to make mobile tactile design easier for designers and programmers, starting with the most open mobile platform, Android.
  • All the mobile platforms offer some method of adding tactile feedback into your apps. But in most cases the actual tactile effect design is tedious involving programming of specific motor on/off durations and motor intensity levels. Or in the case of iOS, you are only allowed to call a set duration buzzing effect.Because of this, few mobile developer have made the effort to add the sense of touch feedback into their apps. This is why my company has looked into methods to make mobile tactile design easier for designers and programmers, starting with the most open platform, Android.
  • Everyone should be aware that Android is now the biggest selling mobile platform. Android devices are outselling iPhone and every other smartphone platform. Therefore, as the largest marketplace, Android has huge potential for developers. So, my company created a pre-designed tactile feedback effect library that is a FREE DOWNLOAD for designers and developers.We can give this library away for free because our business model is to get royalties from handset manufacturers who are already using our tactile feedback technology. But their handsets and tablets are only compelling if they have good feeling apps to go with them.That’s why Immersion sends me out to give you examples of good tactile feedback design, inspire your thinking about use cases even outside of gaming and give you free Android tools to quickly enable your content and make you successful in your projects.What I’m “selling” here is the idea of good tactile design and making sure you know your options for programming feeling into your apps. So, you know your options outside of Android. Let me show you your extended options within the Android OS using tools I helped design.
  • To support our library of tactile effects, we create a free effect preview application for designers to use for Android apps. This application allows designers to sample and plan which tactile effects they want to use before programming or compiling the effects into their apps. This saves a lot of time in the design process, so much so that tactile effects selection and implementation takes minutes instead of hours.But even if you are not developing for Android, designers can still use this app as a great reference when manually designing vibration parameters on other platforms.
  • And you can find this preview app on Google Play
  • While Immersion is making tactile effect design easy on the Android, you might like to know some of the Immersion benefits beyond the 124 pre-designed tactile effects library.A standard Google vibrate command uses 100% voltage to the motor, but Immersion’s library use many different, lesser voltage magnitudes to deliver tactile effects. For example, tactile effect power consumption on a Samsung Galaxy class phone or tablet is essentially insignificant consuming only about 1% of the overall device power. 99% of power consumption on the Galaxy devices comes from the processor, display, sensors and communication components.And because the Immersion tactile effects have basically a tactile “volume” control, the effects can be very subtle which is ideal for longer duration effects so you do not annoy the user with strong buzzing. For example, in a drawing application you could add a very subtle virtual texture when drawing on a mobile screen to simulate a paper or canvas surface.And from a designer’s perspective, what is most important is keeping the feeling of your tactile design consistent from user-to-user. This is typically tough with so many different mobile devices on the market. But Immersion has thought about this problem too and worked to solve it for you.
  • These are typical vibration actuators, cheapest to best, going diagonally across the picture from top left.There have been 3 distinct generations of actuators, with different characteristics of cost, size, power use, and performance.The current gold standard is the piezo actuator, which is not a motor at all, but a slim crystalline element.Because Immersion works with mobile manufacturers at the hardware prototyping level, we know all the motor types on the market. And we know the differences between the performance of these motors so we can compensate for those differences in our tactile effect library so you don’t have to. You can design your tactile effects into your app once and be confident that it will feel as consistent as possible across all Android devices.
  • If you want to try your first Android project with tactile effects using the free Immersion library of 124 pre-made tactile effects, we also offer a Quick Start Guide, sample code and plugins for environments like Unity3D to quickly get you started.
  • For Unity3D developers there are even fewer steps to adding feeling to your Android projects.
  • Screens with Feeling

    1. 1. ©2013 Immersion Corporation–Confidential NASDAQ: IMMR Bob Heubel Developer Evangelists, Haptics October 2013 Screens with feeling: Tactile feedback for a better UX
    2. 2. ©2013 Immersion Corporation–Confidential 2 Agenda – We will answer these questions:  Who is Immersion?  What does touch feedback or tactile design mean?  Why is touch feedback essential to the mobile UI?  How can touch feedback be applied to better the UX?  What are the best design practices for tactile feedback?  What are touch feedback methods across platforms?  What are the biggest design hurdles and how can they be dealt with?  What is the extended vibration method for Android?  What are some additional tactile design resources?
    3. 3. ©2013 Immersion Corporation–Confidential Who is Immersion? Company Highlights Immersion: The Haptics Company Worldwide Support Offices in EU, Korea, Taiwan, Japan, U S & Canada World Class Customer Base Samsung, Nokia, LG, Toshiba, Fujitsu, Sony, Microsoft, Logitech, Lexus, BMW, CAE and many more Established in Large, Rapidly Growing Markets Immersion solution in over 1 billion devices  Mobile phones, game controllers, auto, industrial, casino, other portable devices Strong Intellectual Property Portfolio of 1,300+ granted and pending patents specifically in the field of Haptics related to both hardware and software Technology Leader Developing tactile touch solutions also known as “Haptics” for over 20 years. NASDAQ: IMMR
    4. 4. ©2013 Immersion Corporation–Confidential 4
    5. 5. ©2013 Immersion Corporation–Confidential 5 Say hello to Homunculus The Mobile User
    6. 6. ©2013 Immersion Corporation–Confidential © 2011 Immersion Corporatio
    7. 7. ©2013 Immersion Corporation–Confidential 7 •get a grip•how does that grab you? •ifeeledgy •standing on pins and needles •s t r e t c h the imagination a gripping experience •only scratched the surface •keep in touch •a touching experience •i’m deeply touched •itching to go •can you handle it? •put on the finishing touches •he’s tactful •she’s tactless •hold your own •be on your toes •makes my skin crawl •solid reputation •a slimy character •like a kick in the teeth •make contact with •don’t be pushy •a mere slap on the wrist •like a slap in the face •a hands-off policy •a clinging personality •a palpable lie •she’s touchy •touch and go •the personal touch •walking on egg shells •grasp an idea •he rubs me the wrong way •a rough character intimate immediate emotional
    8. 8. ©2013 Immersion Corporation–Confidential © 2011 Immersion Corporatio Agency TBWANeboko Photo: Michael Harvey CBS News Photo: Walter Geis Point 2: Touch feedback fulfills a need for tactile gratification that is sorely missed in media.
    9. 9. ©2013 Immersion Corporation–Confidential Social Isolation 9
    10. 10. ©2013 Immersion Corporation–Confidential © 2011 Immersion Corporatio PUSH THE BUTTON
    11. 11. ©2013 Immersion Corporation–Confidential © 2011 Immersion Corporatio
    12. 12. ©2013 Immersion Corporation–Confidential © 2011 Immersion Corporatio The best communication is often emotive
    13. 13. ©2013 Immersion Corporation–Confidential Core tactile feedback design principles  Simple sensations are often the most effective  Sensations that fit with visual & audio elements make the whole greater than the sum of its parts  It is bad to annoy, confuse or overwhelm the user  It is good to give the user options Always “play” test your tactile effects to ensure that you are meeting these core principles. 13
    14. 14. ©2013 Immersion Corporation–Confidential Design goals when using tactile feedback  Make mobile devices feel more usable  Make apps feel more satisfying  Make communication with friends and family feel more personal 14
    15. 15. ©2013 Immersion Corporation–Confidential Lessons learned from console games All major gaming consoles use tactile effects to help immerse gamers in their virtual worlds. 15 X-Box Halo PlayStation - Gran Turismo Nintendo Wii Legend of Zelda
    16. 16. ©2013 Immersion Corporation–Confidential 16 Interactive tactile game example
    17. 17. ©2013 Immersion Corporation–Confidential 17 Two-way interactive touch example
    18. 18. ©2013 Immersion Corporation–Confidential Tactile video example 18 Feel the person on the other side of the video
    19. 19. ©2013 Immersion Corporation–Confidential Tactile video example 19 Feel the person on the other side of the video Feel the person on the other side of the video
    20. 20. ©2013 Immersion Corporation–Confidential Tactile feedback effects beyond games Feedback in games is natural like X-Box or Playstation, but consider other possible use cases like…  Screen gestures – swipes, slides, pinches, twists  Social networking – virtual poking, winking, smiling, kissing  Children’s learning – touch confirmations & answer rewards  Interactive 2-way videos – shared screen virtual touching  Customizable alerts – alert patterns for caller & messaging IDs that can be created by the user and stored as vibe IDs for any mobile contacts  eReaders – feeling page turning, writing notes  Apps for the sight impaired – Haptic navi-cues, Braille input, Braille watch  Sports / Health Apps – Alerts based on health monitoring or pacing 20
    21. 21. ©2013 Immersion Corporation–Confidential 21 Tactile feedback clock for everyone Tactile Clock Allows you to feel the time. Good for both blind and sighted users.
    22. 22. ©2013 Immersion Corporation–Confidential Top 5 reasons to use tactile feedback effects #5 Increased sense of realism “Feels like the real world” #4 Increased immersion combining audio/visual/touch “Sum is greater than individual parts” #3 Greater user satisfaction “Proven in game platforms” #2 Increased stickiness “Greater emotional connection to digital media & UI” And the #1 reason to use tactile effects… #1 The potential for increased revenue by “Differentiating your app” 22
    23. 23. ©2013 Immersion Corporation–Confidential How to program tactile effects into mobile apps 23
    24. 24. ©2013 Immersion Corporation–Confidential Tactile effect design by operating system Nearly all operating systems allow you program vibration events into your applications. But not all methods are created equal. iOS – Only allows you to call a vibration constant that triggers the motor for a set duration. This is not good for most games and is meant only for notifications. Android – Allows you to call a Vibrator Class and set on/off duration times. Also offers an extended method through Immersion API. Windows 8 – Allows you basically the same control as Android & Blackberry but uses a VibrateController Class, but without intensity control. Tizen– Allows you native and web app programming environments. Both use a Vibrator Class but native allows for intensity control. Whereas web has no intensity control and uses a navigator.vibrate method. Both have methods for pattern arrays. Blackberry 10 – Allows you the same control as Android but uses a VibrationController Class. Also has a Intensity parameter Symbian – For Javascript you use start/stop methods with their Vibra Class that allows you to set duration and intensity parameters. For Qt on their S60 API you use a wrapper class called HapticFeedback. This Additionally, the HapticFeedback Class can be extended method through the Immersion API 24
    25. 25. ©2013 Immersion Corporation–Confidential Hurdles to good mobile tactile design  Time consuming – Manual programming of sensations, usually setting durations and pulsing patterns in milliseconds and intensity levels on a scale of 1-100 (if available)  Inconsistent feel – Operating systems use different vibe classes and methods – Parameter controls vary between operating systems – Motor types vary from manufacturer to manufacturer  Differing user preferences – Touch feel is personal… varying by age, sex and region 25
    26. 26. ©2013 Immersion Corporation–Confidential How to jump the tactile design hurdles  Save tactile design time – Reuse your effect parameters from project to project  Get a consistent feel – Design and test on the highest volume devices – Create manufacturer specific themes with parameters optimized for each target manufacturer – If you can’t get a good feeling from a specific device, exclude it from your design  Compensate for user tastes – Set smart defaults but allow options in your settings for users to increase or decrease the intensity of your tactile effects to their personal tastes, the same as audio 26
    27. 27. ©2013 Immersion Corporation–Confidential Lowered hurdles specifically for Android Because the Android operating system is the most open for tactile design and holds the lion share of the smart phone market… Immersion created a free pre-designed library of tactile effects that compensates for vibration motor differences so developers can quickly add tactile sensations into their apps and games. We call this the… “Immersion Haptic Development Platform for Android” And we hope to offer additional support for this same library in other operating systems in the future. 27
    28. 28. ©2013 Immersion Corporation–Confidential Haptic Effect Preview App  124 pre-designed tactile effects  Free app on Google Play  Feel each tactile effect on any Android device before programming  Code sample provided for each effect 28
    29. 29. ©2013 Immersion Corporation–Confidential Haptic Effect Preview App on Google Play 29
    30. 30. ©2013 Immersion Corporation–Confidential Benefits of the extended method for Android Google Vibrate Immersion Extended Method Inferior battery usage: only controls the duration of vibration Very efficient use of battery: control over duration, magnitude and frequency of vibration 1 basic effect – full magnitude w/durations set manually Library of 124 pre-made gaming and user interface effects Ineffective for longer duration game effects, only gives you buzz Ideal for longer duration subtle game effects Unreliable feel across Android devices due to different motor types Most consistent feel across ALL Android devices 30
    31. 31. ©2013 Immersion Corporation–Confidential 31 A word about actuators Designing a consistent feel across devices
    32. 32. ©2013 Immersion Corporation–Confidential “Consistent feel across ALL Android devices” Why is this important? Because there are over 600 Android device makers and over 7000 models of handsets and tablets that all use different vibration actuators like these: 32 • 3 Distinct Generations: • Eccentric Rotating Mass • Linear Resonant Actuator • Piezo Electric
    33. 33. ©2013 Immersion Corporation–Confidential Haptic SDK Quick Start Guide 33
    34. 34. ©2013 Immersion Corporation–Confidential Unity3D Haptic Plugin Quick Start Guide 34
    35. 35. ©2013 Immersion Corporation–Confidential Additional tactile design resources Immersion’s Haptic SDK Tools: Including plugins for Unity3D, Marmalade, Game Maker Enough Software’s Mobile Developer Guide to the Galaxy: Wireless Industry Partner’s (WIP) Design Guide Mobile Developer’s Guide to the Fifth Dimension: Available in your SCREENS gift bag and at: 35
    36. 36. ©2013 Immersion Corporation–Confidential Contact Us Like Us Follow Us @HapticsDev Read Our Blog Direct Access: 36 Bob Heubel RHEUBEL@IMMERSION.COM Thank you!