Haptic feedback is a big part of what makes modern touchscreens usable – as early adopter of the original iPhone know, typing on a flat surface is a pretty poor method of tactile interaction. Texas Instruments is aiming to improve the current generation of vibration motors, vibrators and software by developing new piezo (Greek for “to press”) series of drivers.
Piezo drivers allow for both a greater frequency (i. e. a more powerful buzz) and a greater range of vibration control, giving developers and OEMs more options when it comes to haptic interaction. In addition to standard whole-device vibration, the new piezo motor combines with extension points below a device’s screen to selectively restrict the feedback to the screen only. In effect, this makes the user “feel” like the vibration effect happens only on the point touched. Truly selective haptic feedback with multiple point tracking is still a few years away.
Texas Instruments’ DRV8662 haptic feedback driver delivers a more powerful “buzz” with a lower power drain than its contemporaries, though not as low as some of the admittedly weaker actuating feedback units. The first consumer device to use this piezo driver is Pantech’s new Element tablet, which recently launched on AT&T.