Tactile Feedback for Smartwatches from ‘Taxels’

The term ‘smartwatch’ usually refers to a piece of wearable technology worn on the wrist of the user, but aside from that the definition is quite vague. Today, they come in lots of different shapes, sizes and complexities, from simple…

The term ‘smartwatch’ usually refers to a piece of wearable technology worn on the wrist of the user, but aside from that the definition is quite vague. Today, they come in lots of different shapes, sizes and complexities, from simple digital watches that tell the time and keep up to date through a link with a central clock to full blown miniature personal computers such as the Apple watch. Somewhere in-between lies the ‘hybrid’, with analogue design features like physical hands and dial but digital technology packed in underneath, and limited functionality.

However, that’s all a smartwatch can do. They are essentially computers on your wrist. In our opinion, for wearable technology to truly be adopted into the mainstream it has to do more than that, and that’s where haptic feedback could come in. Haptics is an area of computing dedicated to producing feedback from the computer that is tactile, usually in the form of pressure on the skin of the user. With the advent of miniature computers small enough to wear on the person, this becomes a lot more relevant. Why just have a smartwatch that flashes and beeps to display and alert when you can have one that stimulates your wrist in a pleasant fashion, and why stop there? Why not take it further and connect the watch to a piece of haptic clothing that could massage you as an alert, or simulate the hug of a loved one. Wouldn’t that be a better reminder than a vibration?

The is still a very new area being explored by lots of different companies, from big brands like Apple to more traditional brands like Fossil and Tommy Hilfiger watches, all with the aim that the smart watch should not just sit on your wrist and bleep like an electronic animal, but actually feel like a part of you. If wearable technology is ever to be a huge success, it will have to incorporate two way relationships like this.