This Company Is Trying To Bring Touch To The Digital World

This Company Is Trying To Bring Touch To The Digital World

Immersion is a company developing haptic technology that can be integrated with phones in features such as text, email and gaming

Ido Lechner, Home Editor
  • 9 november 2016

Nowadays mobile devices have become a way of life, from smartphones to wearables, and pretty soon augmented reality headsets as well. But for a technology used for roughly one third of any given day, there’s still many facets that go unnoticed. Consider the case of vibrations, used every time we get a push notification or engage with our favorite apps. While it may seem trivial, haptic feedback plays a critical role in our daily endeavors, helping us to stay connected, enriching our touchscreen interactions and providing contextual clues to inform the many micro-decisions we make in both our public and private lives.

Growing up in the gaming industry, public company Immersion had the perfect springboard to transition into the mobile phone sector to bring added dimensionality to smartphones. Licensing its software to phone manufacturers, the company’s haptics can be felt every time you go to take a picture on your camera, receive a text/email, play your favorite gaming apps and beyond. Now, Immersion wants to open its software further than ever before, delivering customization capabilities into the hands of ad agencies and content creators alike.

PSFK had the opportunity to sit down with VP of Marketing Todd Whitaker to understand what this open sourcing will look like, and how the ability to adapt content to fit marketing creatives will enrich adverts like never before.

In the past, Immersion relied on an SDK, known as TouchSense, to help its partners integrate haptics into their own code, explains Whitaker. Fast forwarding to present day, the company now employs a more modern blend of HTML and vpaid specification (a universal format for ad units) to achieve the same effect in a more seamless and intuitive fashion—a branded software known as Haptic Ad Service. And, instead of solely accepting gigs to develop custom haptic tracks for its client base, Immersion now offers cloud-based software for content creators to create their own effects, though the company is still happy to produce haptics for others all the same. Simply plug in your phone as an audio output and treat the haptic waveforms as an audio input, and you can then design haptics in real-time, feeling them instantaneously through your device.

“Customers experiencing haptic adds click to find out more. They try things out a second time, and rather than being an irritating thing, it’s something that kind of ‘tickles with you,’ its definitely a pleasant surprise,” says Whitaker. “With our haptic technology, we’ve more than doubled the app recall, and have garnered over 15 million impressions over tons of different geographies.”

Applicable to virtually every industry, haptics play a subtle yet critical role in bringing interactions to life, and knowing how to apply them effectively can dramatically up the returns on your content. In gaming, haptics are assigned to specific objects or actions (think: shooting a gun or skateboarding on a rail), which trigger a feedback loop to let players know how or what they’re performing. Conversely, videos are linear and less interactive, so haptics should be used sparingly and in the right moments to bring the experience to life. Imagine viewing a Bond-like character during a tense fight scene, moments before the climactic point of the movie; now imagine feeling their heartbeat as a supplement to the already nerve-wracking scene.

“We’ve seen lots of interesting ways in which haptics can be created and delivered to people across various sectors: mobile, medical, robotics, etc… One area we’re really looking forward to implementing our solutions in is AR and VR, where all of this stuff becomes critically important in producing something that feels ‘real,’” adds Whitaker.

Often an afterthought in the ways we experience media, touch can be a powerful vehicle for recall across all digital touch points. Its often said that the more senses are involved, the more learning occurs, which speaks to the potency that tactile feedback has on absorbing new materials – whether its from an academic, entertainment or marketing perspective. As the industry standard for weaving the unexpected element of touch into the digital world, Immersion is helping content creators of all backgrounds resonate with their audience through a less-accentuated but equally as important medium.


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