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Using haptic feedback for navigation

13 Feb 2015  | Brian Burk

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Take a look at the encapsulated motor from Precision Microdrives. For LRAs, the task is a little simpler. An LRA is completely encapsulated, so the actuator can be bonded or clamped to almost any surface. Also, they can be sewn into clothing by creating small pockets for a haptic feedback belt, vest, or shirt (figure 6). This can be done with the encapsulated ERMs as well.

Figure 6: Clothing with LRA actuators. Photo Source: Vibe-ing

Once the actuator has been chosen, then a driver needs to be selected. The driver plays an important role, because it creates the haptic waveforms. It is responsible for creating the language that communicates with the user through their sense of touch. To do that, the driver creates different vibration patterns by varying the amplitude and frequency of the output waveform.

Take a look at the Texas Instrument DRV2605L ERM and LRA driver which has 123 different haptic waveforms embedded in the chip. This device creates the haptic language for you. You just put it together and speak it! The embedded waveforms can be combined into sequences to get even more varied haptic effects. It comes in a very small 1.5 mm x 1.5 mm BGA chip-scale package, or a slightly larger 3 mm x 3 mm leaded package that, in my opinion, is much easier to solder. Both packages require only two external components: a 1uF bypass capacitor, and a 1uF internal regulator capacitor.

Figure 7: DRV2605 ERM and LRA Haptic Driver.

The last component in the system is the processor. The Bluetooth processor is responsible for communication between the navigation block and the haptic user interface. There are a number of different options, but let me point you to the SimpleLink Bluetooth low energy (Bluetooth Smart) CC2541 wireless microcontroller. We used this in a recent project to create a reference design for haptic wearables, and found it to be very useful in any application that needs to prototype haptic feedback.

Let me know what you think by making a comment. I would like to hear your ideas for using haptics!

About the author
Brian Burk is an applications manager at Texas Instruments.

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