Haptic Learning: The Next Generation of Hands-on

Teachers are often tasked these days with assessing their students' learning styles so they can adapt their teaching methods accordingly. A learning style is how a person learns best. Although there are many learning style models, a popular model is based on sensory input. In this model, there are three basic learning styles: auditory, visual and kinesthetic. Most students learn best through one of these three modes, although some are multi-modal, which means they have more than one strong learning preference.

Research is showing that even auditory and visual learners benefit greatly from activities that involve the sense of touch. In one study, middle and high school students developed more positive attitudes about science and achieved a deeper understanding of key concepts when they use haptic learning techniques. Based on this and similar studies, science teachers in particular are attracted to haptics. Many are using the technology to help students interact with objects, such as viruses or nanoparticles which would otherwise be too small to be touched or seen. Others are enabling their students to probe 3-D renderings of cells. And still others are using haptic feedback devices to teach students about invisible forces like gravity and friction more completely.

The Importance of Haptic Technology

In video games, the addition of haptic capabilities is nice to have. It increases the reality of the game and, as a result, the user's satisfaction. But in training and other applications, haptic interfaces are vital. That's because the sense of touch conveys rich and detailed information about an object. When it's combined with other senses, especially sight, touch dramatically increases the amount of information that is sent to the brain for processing. The increase in information reduces user error, as well as the time it takes to complete a task. It also reduces the energy consumption and the magnitudes of contact forces used in a teleoperation situation.

Clearly, Samsung is hoping to capitalize on some of these benefits with the introduction of the Anycall Haptic phone. Nokia will push the envelope even farther when it introduces phones with tactile touchscreens. Yes, such phones will be cool to look at. And, yes, they will be cool to touch. But they will also be easier to use, with the touch-based features leading to fewer input errors and an overall more satisfying experience.

­If you'd like to learn more about haptics and related technologies, take a look at the links on the next page.