ViviTouch technology is being extended to give gamers a full experience of touch to enhance their experience.
Gamers are a demanding group. No sooner have manufacturers provided colour visuals than they want high definition, or 3D – and they want them on the devices that shape our everyday world. The games arcade or home-based gaming centre like the Wii or X-Box is no longer enough. Users demand mobile devices such as tablet PCs, smartphones and gaming peripherals that offer an improved and more realistic user experience. Bayer MaterialScience has responded to this demand with ViviTouch technology, which uses thin polymer films that stretch and contract in rapid motion, like artificial muscles.
ViviTouch is designed to generate haptic signals that extend the gaming experience to the tactile, as well as visual and aural. Mobile devices have only been able to offer a limited range of, essentially, vibratory signals – and they have all been pretty much the same. Bayer says that its new technology offers access to a broader spectrum of precise and simultaneous tactile effects, which provide different feel for different objects: a rolling pinball feels different from a running engine or a human heartbeat. It offers the potential for a lot of fun but goes even further, into emotional and medical areas.
“Everyone has heard the recording of a baby’s heartbeat in the mother’s womb. You can also record the way the pulse actually feels and, thanks to our new technology, have mobile devices relay this feeling,” says Dirk Schapeler, Head of the ViviTouch team. He claims that tactile sensations from a smartphone will be just as realistic and exciting as hearing and seeing already are currently.
Bayer presents ViviTouch as a significant advance, and one that is perhaps even overdue. HD TV pictures and cinema-quality surround sound are now common but there has been little technical progress in haptic feedback over the past 15 years, and ViviTouch is intended to address this gap in consumer electronics. It is not just an advance in touch and feel; the technology uses up to 70% less energy than conventional vibratory motors, which means that users can play for longer before recharging their devices.
Manufacturers of mobile devices such as tablet PCs, smartphones and gaming peripherals were able to get a first look at ViviTouch at the Mobile World Congress in February this year. Bayer says that it is now working closely with several device manufacturers and is actively seeking additional partnerships.
A new dimension in sound
ViviTouch is claimed to be about to change the way people experience music as well. Headphones incorporating the technology make sound “come alive” by changing the way listeners hear, and without raising the volume to ear-splitting levels. The effect is reported to be particularly noticeable with deep tones and sounds. The technology functions through direct contact with the scalp and conducts sound through the bones of the skull. “The effect is comparable to a major live concert, where fans can feel the bass tones over their whole body,” Schapeler says.
Bayer MaterialScience’s technology is based on electroactive polymers (EAP). They have the ability to change shape when a voltage is applied, which transforms electrical energy directly into motion. They have been called ‘artificial muscles’ because of the way they work. Actuators are made by printing both sides of a polymer film. If a voltage is applied to the electrodes, they attract one another, exerting pressure on the non-conductive film in between, which expands over its whole surface. When the voltage is turned off, the film returns to its original shape. The result is controlled motions with response times in the millisecond range, which are used to simulate HD haptic effects.