New touchy-feely tech will let you feel others through your phone

Immersion, the company that makes the Samsung Galaxy S III buzz when you press the keyboard, has announced two new ideas it hopes manufacturers like Samsung will adopt over the coming year.

Detailed to Pocket-lint ahead of smartphone trade show Mobile World Congress, the two new ideas aim to make haptics even more a part of our every day phone life.

Haptics is the term used to describe the buzzing sensation some phones give when you interact with them as they try to convince you that what you are touching on the screen has a physical response.

In the past that has meant physical responses to keyboard presses, but in its latest advancements the company hopes to allow manufacturers much more control over when and when not to use it.

"The Integrated Theme Module enables OEMs to rethink the user experience with tactile effects as one of the tools in their design arsenal," explains Dennis Sheehan, Immersion’s senior vice-president of sales and marketing. "With Integrated Themes, touch effects enhance the whole device design language, not just button confirmation, creating a more immersive overall experience." 

The examples shown to Pocket-lint involved a ringing bowl, and the ability to make it ring and vibrate the phone by rubbing a finger around the edge. Moving from pane to pane within the Android UI on our demo device vibrated the phone in harmony with the rustling leaves in the background.

"With Immersion’s Integrated Theme Module, OEMs can extend their brand into the device feel by tightly integrating the audio, visual and tactile experience," the company says.

Other examples seen include a user interface, designed for a branded automotive experience, that comes to life when you feel the virtual car door unlock as you enter the home screen.

When it's not trying to get the phone's interface to be more touchy-feely, the company is working on ways to let you touch your friends even when you aren't there.

The company's Tactile Presence solution provides an API for mobile communication applications to call low-power haptics - also known as tactile effects - remotely.

By creating and transmitting tactile information between two mobile devices, Tactile Presence adds a sense of physical presence to interactive mobile experiences, says Immersion.

In simple terms that means you could send vibrations to another phone by touching your screen. Perhaps for a kid to feel a father's stubble, or a blast in a game to be felt by your opponent.

"Everyone is familiar with the idea of telepresence, the notion that while we’re talking on a phone, we create a shared audio space with others. With Tactile Presence, we have extended the idea of a shared space to include the sense of touch," explains Chris Ullrich, Immersion’s vice-president of user experience.

"The sense of touch is fundamental, emotive and creates a strong sense of connection. With Tactile Presence, OEMs can harness this powerful sense to create more satisfying mobile telepresence experiences."

Both innovations are set to be available to manufacturers by the end of the year, suggesting that we could see them in new smartphones and tablets by March or April 2014 if phone manufacturers think we want them.



>