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6 minutes read

What are Haptics?

By Jonathan Tarud
By Jonathan Tarud
6 minutes read

If you have a smartphone, play video games, or use modern technology in any capacity, you have interacted with haptic feedback technology whether you were aware of it or not. While haptic technology is a big part of modern technologies and smart devices, it isn’t a new innovation. 

While many devices in our lives create haptic feedback, many people still don’t fully understand what haptic technology is or why it is essential. This post will explain haptic technology and explore haptic feedback’s role in our applications and devices. 

What Is Haptic Technology?

Haptic technology transmits tactile feedback produced by an electronic device to an end user. The most common example of tactile feedback is vibration, but it can include other physical sensations such as force feedback and other simulations of physical touch. 

Everyone has probably felt their pocket buzz when they get a text message, phone call, or other type of notification. Mobile phones are the most widely used haptic devices, and the haptic feedback provided by these devices are familiar tactile sensations. 

For example, when your phone buzzes for a long time, you know you are receiving a phone call. Whereas if your phone buzzes once, you know you have received a text message. The vibration patterns produced by haptic technologies tell us what type of communication is coming into our mobile phones before we even look at them. 

However, phones are not the only devices that provide haptic feedback. Haptic technology is a big part of video games and Virtual Reality. Next-generation video game consoles try to mimic the human sense of touch through their gaming controllers. 

Cutting-edge Virtual Reality games and applications are trying to create more than a visually immersive experience. These products also attempt to transmit realistic sensations and sound environments using haptics and ultrasonic tactile feedback. 

The Different Types of Haptic Technology

Haptic feedback comes in many different shapes and sizes. While vibrations are likely the most common and widely experienced, there are many other tactile stimuli that other haptic feedback types can simulate. 

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most popular types of haptic technology, including the following:

  • Vibrotactile feedback
  • Force feedback
  • Kinesthetic feedback
  • Thermal feedback
  • Tactile feedback
  • Ultrasonic feedback 

Vibrotactile Feedback  

Vibrotactile feedback is one of the most common forms of haptic feedback and relies primarily on vibration. The first thing people think of when discussing vibrotactile feedback is a mobile phone’s vibrations for calls, texts, or notifications.

However, vibrotactile feedback is also common with haptic touch screens. Many phones will give off a slight vibration each time a key is pressed to mimic the sensation of a physical keyboard.

Linear resonant actuators small vibration motors, commonly produce this feedback. 

Force Feedback 

Force feedback occurs when electronic devices use motors to move independently while users hold or use them. The most common example of haptic tech that uses force feedback is steering wheel game controllers. 

The controller steering wheels that utilize force feedback technology will straighten themselves out when coming out of turns to simulate an actual steering wheel. This type of haptic tech was first developed in the 1960s, which makes it one of the oldest and most studied types of haptic feedback. 

Kinesthetic Feedback 

Kinesthetic haptics are a sub-type of force feedback that mimics an object’s weight, pressure, or resistance. Imagine the example of the steering wheel controller again. The wheel is easier to turn at lower speeds, and at higher speeds, it is more difficult to turn. 

This is an example of kinesthetic feedback. Of course, not all controllers will be equipped with these haptic features, but the ones that are will behave this way. 

Thermal Feedback 

Thermal feedback is not a standard inclusion in haptic technology. It is difficult to produce these types of haptic responses. To picture thermal feedback, imagine your partner or friend feeling your forehead to see if you have a fever. 

If you are hot to the touch, it indicates you are feverish. This is an example of thermal feedback. It is rare to find thermal feedback features in commercial technology or consumer devices. 

Tactile Feedback 

Tactile feedback is very similar to vibrotactile feedback but uses different mechanics like electric pulses, airwaves, and sound. These common types of feedback are used to create immersive experiences for Virtual Reality applications and games

Ultrasonic Feedback 

This is another uncommon type of haptic feedback. Its capabilities are impressive, though. Ultrasonic feedback uses ultrasonic airwaves to disturb the air and create tactile sensations for users

It produces similar effects as tactile feedback technologies, but ultrasonic feedback doesn’t require physical contact between the user and the device to create tactile sensations. 

The Different Types of Haptic Experience 

When it comes to haptic technology, there are three main categories, and they are based on usage. The three categories of haptic technology include:

  • Graspable 
  • Wearable 
  • Touchable 


Graspable haptic technologies are some of the most common. Graspable haptic devices are like joysticks and gaming controllers. They typically employ vibrotactile and kinesthetic feedback to increase immersion. 

Graspable haptic tech has also been used to operate robots and explore remote places, such as space. 


When thinking about wearable haptic tech, you might think of smartwatches first. However, these devices are not good examples of wearable haptic technologies. Instead, smartwatches fall more in our next category of haptic technology, touchable. 

Wearable haptic technologies simulate the sensations of touch. The most exciting application of this technology is VR gloves that mimic real-world sensations for users and receive inputs from them. 


Touchable haptics are common in consumer devices. Smartphones, smartwatches, tablets, etc represent this technology. Touchable haptics respond to touch, motion, rotations, and other user movements. 

If you have used a smartphone, you have experienced touchable haptics. Touchable haptic devices generally rely on vibrotactile feedback to inform users about notifications.

Final Thoughts 

Haptic technology is an integral part of modern life. This technology plays a significant role in how we interact with apps and devices. If you want to learn more about haptics, contact an experienced app development partner like Koombea

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