Attempts to transform touch into a sense capable of being captured, stored, transmitted, and reconstructed by computers reach back to the 1960s. Such efforts have been intended explicitly to make touch like the senses of seeing and hearing, by providing touch with its own distinct set of mediation technologies and techniques. This process of analogous mediation, according to haptics proponents, would eventually help restore balance to the mediated sensorium, giving touch back its vital powers as an epistemological and emotional agent.
Thus far, however, attempts to design technologies that could meet this lofty goal of mediating touch have generally fallen short. The moment of sudden and extreme physical distancing forced on us in response to the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the lack of pragmatic and commercially viable solutions offered by the haptics industry—solutions that might have helped ameliorate the negative psychological effects of distanced communication during the pandemic.
Prompted by this crisis, I outline a set of practical obstacles to the widespread adoption of haptic technologies, including the materiality of the human tactile system, the accuracy of the various actuators responsible for generating haptic sensations, network latency issues, lack of standardization in haptic languages and design tools, the compatibility of haptic data with data encoded for the senses of seeing and hearing, and a more general cultural fatigue resulting from decades of unfulfilled promises made around touch technology by haptics evangelists.
Alex joined Ultraleap in 2016 and heads up the US office, which opened in April 2017. In his previous role as Senior Director of Strategy and Business Development at Samsung, he led a team supporting innovations and investments. He holds M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Physics from the University of Cambridge, an M.B.A. degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and right issued and pending patents.
Tim Szeto is CEO and founder of Nanoport Technology, an R&D Lab developing future technologies for major players in the mobile industry. Tim is a multiple patent holder and Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year nominee. At the age of 15 Tim started his first business, an interactive software agency and in 2009, launched NanodotsⓇ Magnetic Constructors, an award-winning consumer product sold in over 40 countries. Today, Tim combines his knowledge in software engineering and magnetics serving as the CEO of Nanoport.
Yeshwant Muthusamy is a technologist by trade and geek by nature. He has spent the last 26+ years in the fields of speech recognition, natural language processing, and automatic language identification, among other areas of AI, with IoT and AR/VR being more recent areas of interest. Close to 20 years of that has been spent in various international SDOs (like MPEG, ATSC, Khronos, 3GPP, ITU-T, JCP, ETSI) on media and speech standardization efforts. The transition from speech and audio to haptics has been a relatively seamless and natural one (just another one of the human senses) for him, and he thinks he has successfully survived the “drinking from multiple firehoses” phase of coming up to speed on the intricacies of the haptic technology stack. Yeshwant is excited to be leading Immersion’s standardization and ecosystem strategy and he looks forward to working with the haptics community.
Dr. Matthew Smith is the Chief Scientific Officer, Co-Founder, and President of Embr Labs, the first thermal wellness technology company. Since the company’s founding in 2014, Dr. Smith and his team have developed and patented a platform technology for delivering intelligent, low power, and wearable thermal experiences and commercialized Embr Wave, an intelligent bracelet that cools or warms you with the press of a button. Embr Wave achieved 6x its fundraising goal on Kickstarter in 2017, has since sold over 40,000 units, was named Time Best Invention in 2018, has been validated in the lab and in a clinical study, and led to a partnership with J&J. Dr. Smith leads IP development, core technology R&D, and thermal wellness science at Embr Labs. He will be speaking about his experiences starting a haptics company, lessons learned through constant engagement with customers, and the exciting and complex science underlying thermal sensations and their profound impact on our subjective human experiences. Prior to co-founding Embr Labs, Matt earned his Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Materials Science & Engineering, where he co-authored over 20 publications, co-founded a technical consulting company, and received the department’s Best Ph.D. Thesis award for his work on nanostructured semiconductor devices.
Working at Sateco Group since 2012, Daniel contributed to the sustainable growth of haptic solutions for vehicle switches. In view of emerging smart surfaces, VR/AR applications and robotics, he drives the development of active elastomer components which can add seamless tactile feedback to surfaces and wearables.
Daniel holds an MSc and PhD degree in mechanical engineering and has previous work experience in plastic interconnected devices (3D-MID) and semi-conductor sensor solutions.
David Parisi is an Associate Professor of Emerging Media at the College of Charleston whose research explores the past, present, and possible futures of touch technologies. His book Archaeologies of Touch: Interfacing with Haptics from Electricity to Computing (https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/archaeologies-of-touch) (University of Minnesota Press, 2018) shows how electric shock, experimental psychology, cybernetics, aesthetics, telemanipulation robotics, and virtual reality each participated in a reconceptualization of touch necessary for its integration into contemporary computing technologies. His writing on tactility has appeared in publications such as Logic, TechCrunch, Open!, ROMchip: A Journal of Game Histories, New Media & Society, Convergence, and Game Studies. Parisi is also a member of the recently established Haptics Industry Forum.
Jeremy Fishel is the founder of Tangible Research which delivers consulting soluitions in haptics and robotics, co-founder/former-CTO of SynTouch which manufactures biomimetic tactile sensors and provides solutions for quantifying touch, and professor of Mechatronics Engineering at CSU Chico. Jeremy received his PhD from the University of Southern California (’12) for his work on tactile sensing and material characterization, which formed the foundation of SynTouch’s core business in quantifying touch. He has been recognized by Popular Mechanics as one of the 2013 Innovators, and accepted as a delegate of the Academy of Achievement under the personal recommendation of General David Petraeus for his efforts developing prosthetic hands with tactile reflexes. Under Jeremy's technical leadership SynTouch has been recognized as a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum, an RBR50 company by the Robotics Business Review, and has established a growing list of blue-chip customers adopting SynTouch’s technology. Recently, he has lead a coalition of interdisciplinary teams across multiple high-tech companies to create the world’s first high-fidelity tactile telerobot that allows the operator to control and feel a pair of robotic hands like they were their own. Jeremy’s professional interests are in pioneering applications of robotic dexterity and perception using the sense of touch and he has launched Tangible Research to pursue those objectives.
Nicholas Colonnese is a Research Science Manager at Facebook Reality Labs Research, working on novel interfaces for mixed reality. He leads a multi-disciplinary team which includes researchers with expertise in haptics, soft robotics, computer vision, machine learning, estimation, optimization, and functional garments and textiles. His research interests center on how the intersection of a broad range of academic disciplines: from haptics, to sensor fusion, to human computer interaction paradigm design, can define and then improve mixed reality interaction in the coming revolution of augmented and virtual reality. He holds a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Stanford University.
William R. Provancher is the founder and CEO of the startup Tactical Haptics, which is focused on adapting his prior tactile feedback research to create the haptic illusion of force feedback in a motion controller, but without the limitations of traditional force feedback devices. Tactical Haptics restores the user’s sense of touch to bring virtual reality (VR) experiences alive and allow users to actually feel the stretch of their bow, inertia and impact of their sword, kick of their gun, or tug of a fish. The company has received SBIR (small business innovative research) grants from both NASA and NSF and is venture backed. Most recently the company has created a new cylindrical controller form factor, SaberGrip™, and created new VR experiences focused on sword fighting and fishing for VR arcades as well as medical and industrial VR training.
Eric is a haptics enthusiast breaking the barriers for haptics to scale.
Eric designed the haptics architecture of Interhaptics, lead a team of engineers and marketing colleagues to the launch of the Haptics Composer: the first multiplatform Haptics Design tool on the market.
He co-founded Go Touch VR exploring skin indentation technologies for haptics applications in VR. Go Touch VR raised 2 m $ to create new technologies for XR.
Eric was the CTO of Hap2u in charge of the software team designing the rendering stack to drive surface haptics technologies at full capabilities. Hap2U raised 6 m $ from Daimler and it is going to revolution mobile haptics as we know it.
He published 20 + scientific papers on haptics and human-machine interactions and deposed 5 patents on haptics technologies and applications.
As Executive Director of the ANA Avatar XPRIZE, David brings nearly two decades of Operations experience with a focus on producing large-scale, international competitions and events. Over the course of his ten plus years at XPRIZE, David has orchestrated an eclectic slate of incentivized prize competitions, with topics ranging from Moon exploration (Google Lunar XPRIZE) to seawater surface oil recovery (Oil Cleanup XPRIZE), which leverage emerging technologies and a crowd-source platform to drive technological breakthroughs and positive social impact.
Prior to joining XPRIZE, Jacquelyn Morie spent 13 years as a Sr. Research Scientist at USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT), which she helped found. While there, she created novel VR telehealth and educational activities using her deep understanding of art, computer animation and human behavior to enhance engagement with these programs. As Founder and Chief Scientist of her company, All These Worlds, LLC, Morie continued this work for private and government clients, including NASA’s Behavioral Health & Performance Research group, for whom she developed the ANSIBLE Project, which studied how to mitigate psychological issues that might imperil future long duration space travelers. She served as a member of the DARPA Information, Science And Technology think tank from 2011 through 2015, and lectures extensively on how technology will affect our future selves and humanity. Dr. Morie is also an ACM Distinguished speaker, and holds masters’ degrees in both Fine Art and Computer Science. She also holds a doctorate in immersive technologies from the prestigious SmartLab Program through the University of East London.
David Birnbaum is a designer, inventor, and public speaker on the topics of emotional design, embodied communication, and immersive entertainment. Currently Head of Design Strategy and Outreach at Immersion Corporation, he’s spent the last 15 years designing apps, games, phones, wearables, musical instruments, automotive interfaces, medical devices, ads, and XR with haptic technology. Since feeling haptics for the first time in 2005, David has believed the power of touch technology, becoming more and more pervasive, is poised to change our society and our world. He wants to help make that happen.