Touch Interaction Paradigm™

The need for haptics

Touch is the most powerful of all our senses. The first one to develop in the womb, the last one to go. Without touch we cannot walk, we cannot find our balance, we cannot learn.
So why do we keep ignoring the need for touch in the digital world? Tactai has the technology to make touch possible across the digital landscape today.
When we touch something, it persists in our brain. Touching enriches our daily interactions, augments our communications, brings us closer together, and provides for greater engagement, persuasion and recall.

The Touch Interaction Paradigm™

At Tactai, we believe in useful, simple and accessible technology. Leveraging nearly 20 years of scientific research, we bring lifelike touch to the broadest range of virtual interactions, as the only readily available, affordable and reliable haptic platform on the market. In order to do so, we developed the necessary hardware and software to mimic nature by recording and modeling actual interactions such as the feel of writing with a pen on paper, pressing a button, exploring the surface or rock, or even caressing a tree. Then, with clever software and novel designs we can make each unique interaction, whether with a hand-held instrument such as stylus, a bare finger on a screen, or even in Virtual Reality, feel like the real thing. We call our paradigm for bringing the sense of natural touch to the digital world, the Touch Interaction Paradigm. TIPTM

The magic of sensors and electromechanics

Once we had perfected the reproduction of sensory elements, we added a number of other technologies to our Technology Platform: software, sensors, actuators, and some other elements that just need to remain a mystery.
The result was the creation of Tactai Dynamic Haptics(tm), a combination of firmware as needed, and software that can be embedded in many digital devices and user instruments to enable natural touch sensations like never before.

Inside the Core

Tactai’s patented Dynamic Haptics™ platform makes the digital world feel real by engaging the human sense of touch and creating real-time personalized touch-enabled experiences in digital devices, touch screens, and future VR applications.

What is Dynamic Haptics™?

Current haptic feedback is limited to simple pre-determined vibrations. That is why, user interactions on tablets. Touchscreens, and smartphones do not feel natural, always the same, and seem like gliding on glass. Tactai provides a superior, personalized in real-time, user experience that makes touching the digital world feel real. We call this Dynamic Haptics™. We developed and patented technology over nearly two decades of scientific research at Stanford University and the University of Pennsylvania where we decoded the biological algorithms of how humans feel. We then created complex mathematical models to reflect these algorithms and to generate touch sensations that feel natural and authentic because they match to each individual user’s interaction style.

Going deeper

Consider any two objects in nature interacting together by coming in physical contact with each other. When one or both are human, the physical contact is experienced through the natural sense of touch by engaging special cells throughout the human skin that are called mechanoreceptors. But these two objects need not to be human at all.

When they come in physical contact we capture and model the vibration, or acceleration that varies over time, created by these two objects interacting together. This “time varying waveform” can be recorded through special sensors from the point of view of any of the two objects. The parameters affecting this time varying waveform for one particular interaction are the velocity of one object vs. the other and the contact force between, with the understanding that force generally plays a much smaller role than speed.

Important consequences of this physical interaction:

  • We can record this waveform that models any object interacting through physical contact with any other object or human provided we can attach the appropriate sensors on one of the interacting objects. The applications are unlimited
  • We can capture any distinct features of the contacting surface between the objects such as edges, bumps, cavities, and we can perform multiple scans if needed
  • Since the recorded waveform carries a vibration frequency, the actual sound of the interaction can also be rendered through the actuation medium

To ensure quality experience in reproducing a given interaction, its initial recording which is used to create the model of such interaction, must be performed with the target rendering medium. For example, to reproduce a realistic pen on paper experience on a digital glass tablet, a real interaction of a human holding a pen writing on paper has be recorded first and then the appropriate model is created which can be used to render the experience.

Tactai’s unique and patented data-driven technology to capture, module, and recreate any human touch experience is the only proven methodology available to create authentic digital tactile sensations by eliminating the guesswork on how to best reproduce the sense of human touch onto the digital world.


The science of touch

To create truly powerful experiences in the virtual world, our team of world-leading haptic researchers delved deep into the physics and biology of how humans touch and feel in the natural world. This led to the development of our unique and proprietary touch technology that mimics nature – our Dynamic Tactile Wave™ – based on nearly 20 years of research and development. It mirrors human biology; in that it closely recreates how we humans perceive the presence of objects and their surface characteristics when interacting with them in the real world.

Below are 4 of over 120 articles on our groundbreaking technology:

Ungrounded haptic augmented reality system for displaying roughness and friction:

  • This paper presents the design and validation of an ungrounded haptic augmented reality system that alters the roughness and friction of a rigid 3-D object. The user touches the object via a custom haptic stylus. This system provided a significantly better match than the same models rendered using another tool.
    • Culbertson, H., & Kuchenbecker, K. J. (2017). Ungrounded haptic augmented reality system for displaying roughness and friction. IEEE/ASME Transactions on Mechatronics, 22(4), 1839-1849.

Importance of matching physical friction, hardness, and texture in creating realistic haptic virtual surfaces:

Interacting with physical objects through a tool elicits tactile and kinesthetic sensations that comprise your haptic impression of the object. These cues, however, are largely missing from interactions with virtual objects, yielding an unrealistic user experience. This article evaluates the realism of virtual surfaces rendered using haptic models constructed from data recorded during interactions with real surfaces. We conducted a human-subject study to assess the realism of these virtual surfaces. Subjects compared each of 15 real surfaces to a model component. The realism improvement achieved by including texture in the rendering was found to directly relate to the intensity of the surface’s roughness.

Culbertson, H., & Kuchenbecker, K. J. (2016). Importance of matching physical friction, hardness, and texture in creating realistic haptic virtual surfaces. IEEE Transactions on Haptics, 10(1), 63-74.

Modeling and rendering realistic textures from unconstrained tool-surface interactions:

Texture gives real objects an important perceptual dimension that is largely missing from virtual haptic interactions due to limitations of standard modeling and rendering approaches. This paper presents a set of methods for creating a haptic texture model from tool-surface interaction data recorded by a human in a natural and unconstrained manner. The recorded high-interaction data recorded by a human in a natural and unconstrained manner. The recorded high-frequency tool acceleration signal is segmented and modeled. We use these texture models to render synthetic vibration signals in real time as a user interacts with our TexturePad system. We ran a human-subject study with two sets of ten participants to evaluate the realism of our virtual textures. The results indicated that our virtual textures accurately capture and recreate the roughness of real textures.

  • Culbertson, H., Unwin, J., & Kuchenbecker, K. J. (2014). Modeling and rendering realistic textures from unconstrained tool-surface interactions. IEEE transactions on haptics, 7(3), 381-393.

Creating realistic virtual textures from contact

This paper presents a new, fully realized solution for creating realistic virtual textures. Our system employs a handheld tool to capture the feel of a given texture, recording three-dimensional tool acceleration, tool position, and contact force over time. We render these texture models in real time on a tablet using an augmented stylus. The resulting virtual textures provide a compelling simulation of contact with the real surfaces, which we verify through a human subject study. Romano, J. M., & Kuchenbecker, K. J. (2011). Creating realistic virtual textures from contact acceleration data. IEEE Transactions on haptics, 5(2), 109-119.