Hands On With Immersion’s HD Integrator
PCMag got a feel for some of the haptic effects possible with Immersion’s new HD Integrator.
Immersion today announced HD Integrator, a new OEM tool for Android mobile devices. HD Integrator allows OEMs to use high fidelity haptics to provide information and communicate more clearly with users via the sense of touch. We got a chance to feel it out.
Essentially, HD Integrator is an SDK for haptics, which gives OEMs the ability to automatically apply more vibration and physical feedback effects throughout the Android 4.0 UI, including the home screen and apps. It extends the original Integrator platform to make use of new high fidelity actuators. Immersion sees this as a way for OEMs to provide a more consistent and customized experience on their smartphones. It also feels really cool.
HD Integrator allows OEMs to associate haptic effects with new types of information, like the amount of force and speed used in a gesture all the way to application information such as the amount of comments associated with a photo on Facebook. The latter, for instance, is referred to as “ambient awareness,” and it worked very well in person. While swiping through photos on Immersion’s developer phone, photos that had more comments associated with them had a heavier feel when swiping, as opposed to photos without comments, which swiped effortlessly. This allows the user to be clued into application information without needing to actually display it on the screen, allowing for more visual real estate as well as a more immersive user experience.
Immersion also demonstrated a greatly expanded effects library. We took a look at an app that showed a ball you can roll around the screen. Depending on the desired effect, you can make the areas that come into contact with the ball feel metallic, soft, or even springy. While the feeling of metal was somewhat subjective in its implementation, you can definitely feel a distinct, realistic difference between these options, even when not looking at the screen.
Effects such as “HD reverb” provide the ability to automatically apply haptics to audio-enabled content and tools to tailor the haptic experience based on the content or application. We listened to a clip of Jennifer Lopez’s On the Floor with HD reverb effects enabled. While the song itself remains a matter of taste, there’s no denying the additional punch haptic feedback has while listening, causing your phone to pulse along with the beat of the song. While you may not want to listen to music like this all the time, it’s a good example of how these effects can be applied to sounds in videos or games.
Another demo introduced “layered haptics,” which allows developers to deliver simultaneous distinguishable effects. A video of a rollercoaster ride, for instance, allows you to feel the movement of the coaster, the rush of the air, and even the passengers screaming from behind you. It’s only a fifteen-second clip, but it’s incredibly immersive. Check out a shot from the video in the slideshow above.
Yet another great demo featured just a blank screen with a maraca on it. Depending on the way you moved the phone, you could actually feel the seeds in the maraca moving around in the instrument you see on the screen, all synced up realistically with the audio. It’s pretty incredible.
So how is it possible? HD Integrator works exclusively with Immersion’s TouchSense 5000 software on Android devices to tap into the new capabilities of the high fidelity actuators that are being adopted in many mobile devices today. The actuators allow for practically instant response times and a wide range of sensations, which allows for all of the subtle and nuanced effects we experienced.
As of now, the Pantech Element is one of the only devices capable of delivering a high-definition haptic experience, thanks to its single piezo actuator from Samsung and DRV-8662 haptic piezo driver from Texas Instruments. Immersion said to expect to see more HD haptic support as new devices appear with the proper hardware.
Early evaluation software is available to select device manufacturers today, while a full version of HD Integrator is expected to be broadly available for OEM evaluation by mid-2012. Here’s hoping we see a lot more maraca this time next year.
For more phone reviews, news, and tips, check out our Cell Phones Product Guide.
By Alex Colon, PCMag