Enabling Exploration of Haptic Interactions
Touch based interfaces let users interact with computers through touch. In the vast majority of these systems, the communication back from the computer happens exclusively through visual and auditory channels. This represents a lost opportunity in human-computer interaction, as we know that haptics can provide a rich bi-directional channel that goes beyond the homogeneous and unchanging rigid
plane offered by most interactive touch surfaces. Despite the enormous development of the field of haptics, developing hardware and software that provides a compelling haptic experience unfortunately is still expensive and requires specialized knowledge making programming this kind ofinterfaces difficult.
As one promising approach for exploring haptic feedback within tabletop interaction, Marquardt et al. introduced an open source haptic platform called the Haptic Tabletop Puck (or HTP). It uses inexpensive do-it-yourself (DIY) hardware and low-level software. The HTP offered (1) a single-point rod providing haptic output via height, (2) the same rod reacting to finger pressure, and (3) controllable friction as the puck was moved across the surface. Collectively, the HTP enables users and programmers to experience and experiment with a rich haptic channel in a multiuser tabletop environment, where it enables research in a broad range of haptic applications.
The problem is that programming even this simple haptic device requires the programmer to learn complex haptics models (e.g., the interaction between input pressure and output force). In addition, programmers have to understand low-level details of the multiple underlying hardware components (i.e. pressure sensor and servo motors). To encourage research in tabletop haptics, we contribute the HapticTouch toolkit, which simplifies the development of haptic-enabled applications for surface-based interfaces via a multi-level API and an interactive Behavior Lab.