Ruminations on the electronics industry from David Manners, Senior Components Editor on Electronics Weekly.
The Touchie-Feelie-Tuneful Company
Anyone with a technology which can attractively stimulate nerve endings is sitting on a value proposition. This is what HiWave, the re-vamped NXT, brings to the high-tech party.
HiWave is giving its customers a double value proposition – if you want superior audio for a handheld you get haptic touch thrown in for free; and if you want haptic touch for solid surfaces, you get superior audio chucked in for free.
“It’s the same controller IC and the same transducers,” says HiWave CEO Lewis.
In time, the HiWave technology is also set to replace the ubiquitous capacitive touch – which would make it a triple value proposition.
Not many handheld manufacturers have bought into the value of haptic touch yet? “Samsung and HTC have it but everyone turns it off. HiWave’s brief is to make it attractive.
The touch sensation can be fashioned to any requirement – from touching ice, or a liquid, or feeling a caress.
“We generally rely on what customers want,” says Lewis, “”Apple is doing research and feeding it back to us.”
Haptic touch can also deliver the ‘smart button’, i.e a button which can respond not only with a sensation but with a noise or a voice e.g. ‘I’m your off button if you press me for ten seconds’.
In a world where many never discover the full functionality of the devices they own, this holds promise.
Giving each key on a keyboard a different haptic sensation, can help the touch typist or a blind typist and can speak the letter which the key controls.
Giving haptic touch to buttons on a car steering wheel helps a driver to identify the lights and windscreen wipers etc and can confirm with a spoken word which function a button controls.
The advent of OLED screens with their promise of delivering a frame-free screen i.e. one where the screen stretches to the edges of the device, gives HiWave the scope to position its transducers in the best place.
“With OLED we can put the transducers in the scientifically perfect positions for the best performance,” says Lewis, “OLEDs will make our technology really sing.”
HiWave have also used their technology to deliver headphones which allow you to listen to music while hearing surrounding conversations. The trick is a headphone which fits behind the ear, not in the ear, and delivers the audio via soft tissue conduction leaving the normal ear channels unimpeded to pick up conversations.
Lewis wants to expand the company to ‘critical mass’ by doubling the head count and going flat out to replace capacitive touch as the mainstream touch technology.
Tags: advent, keyboard, solid surfaces, touch typist, transducers