How to create digital haptic textures

Interhaptics
4 min readMar 23, 2020

After explaining how haptic enriches interactions and objects in XR, we’ll dive into creating a specific haptic perception: Texture perception to be exact . Easy to say, harder to do! Do not worry, Interhaptics is here to simplify your life.

Texture sensation is easy enough to understand. You just have to look at your sweater or towards a brick wall, and you can immediately imagine the touch sensation that it gives you while sliding your finger across it. We now see how we can approximate that in XR.

Different textures

In XR, touch sensations can be delivered by haptic technologies. Haptics is for sure limited at the moment, but it can already create great tactile experience if used in a smart way!

The particularity of textures is that they are spatial. This means that the sensations you perceive change if you slide your finger slower or faster across the surface. This is the basic characteristic to create compelling texture experiences.

To go a little deeper, the sensation of textures is created by thousands of tiny sensors in the finger, called mechanoreceptors, which send signals to the brain. Mechanoreceptors emit their signal with a rhythm, pretty much like us when we tap the foot to a music beat. These thousands different tapping change continuously while we explore a surface at different velocities. However, they are interpreted by the brain as a unique texture.

This sounds pretty complicated, and scientists haven’t yet figured it out completely, but one thing is pretty clear. One of the most important information is included in the spatial period of the texture, or the spatial periods of the textures! And yes, there are more than one.

Different tones into a texture

Interhaptics allows to create haptic textures with up to 16 different spatial periods, also called haptics tones. For now, 16 haptic tones seems more than enough to create compelling haptics experiences.

The Interhaptics engine then calculates the correct haptics signal as a function of the kind of texture and body part displacement.

Haptic with few tones

We created in this demo a specific section where 6 different textures are represented. This is just one of the examples of how texture can enrich an XR experience.

For each material, we extract a compelling tactile characteristic to be represented with haptics technologies.

Haptic Material Panel of the Interhaptics Demo

Bricks: Each brick has its proper haptic. There is a haptic spike on the edges to define the hollow part between the bricks. This texture is repeated for each brick.

Brick’s Texture of the Interhaptics Demo
Brick Texture in the Interhaptics Demo

All the three representations of wood are different in their consistence. However, textures serve the same purpose. It represents the hollow between the wooden strips. It is through haptics that you understand the difference in composition between each plank of wood.

First wood’s texture of the Interhaptics Demo
First wood texture in the Interhaptics Demo
Second wood’s texture of the Interhaptics Demo
Second wood texture in the Interhaptics Demo
Third wood’s texture of the Interhaptics Demo
Third wood texture in the Interhaptics Demo

As you can see, tiles panel is composed by multiples hollows. Haptics will define the differences between them. While the feedback will be a small vibration between each tile; a stronger vibration represents the space in the middle hollow.

Tile’s texture of the Interhaptics Demo
Tiles texture in the Interhaptics Demo

Without seeing it, you can know which waves is horizontal or vertical in our metal surface example. Haptics won’t be the same for each direction.

Metal texture in the Interhaptics Demo

Our brains have the wonderful faculties to recreate a sensation with just a few pieces of information. Thanks to haptic information, this big computer in our head will build a neuronal set and you could be surprised to imagine the crunchy sound of an old wooden plank, the cold of the metal or the smell of a damaged piece of tile. That’s why haptics is a major part of the XR development, enlarging and enriching the experience and quality of your XR experience.

Check out all our articles here to read about how haptics keep you immersed in your XR experiences. Extend your reality now by downloading Interhaptics, and design, test and iterate your haptic experiences.

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Interhaptics

Interhaptics is a development suite designed to build and create realistic human like interactions as well as haptics feedback for 3D application in XR