Cirrus Logic launches sensor chips that will provide better tactile, or haptic, feedback to all kinds of gadgets, including gaming devices.
Based in Austin, Texas Cirrus Logic specializes in low-power, low-latency chips that perform mixed signal processing, or that take real-world signals and convert them into digital signals. These new sensor chips focus on haptic feedback and could be used in devices such as smartphones that get rid of the physical buttons and replace them with virtual buttons that give you feedback when you touch them.
These types of buttons have fewer mechanical controls, which can make them more reliable, more responsive, and more convincing to the user, said Harsh Rao, head of haptics and detection at Cirrus Logic, in an interview with GamesBeat. The company has already had some success on this front.
“We started with haptics in mobile phones on the Android side, and we have been reasonably successful with all the big customers,” said Rao. “It was a successful journey, trying to elevate the haptics. And now we are working to expand the use of the haptics.”
Cirrus already provides haptic technology for smartphones, and now it will extend to an immersive touch experience for applications in the automotive, augmented and virtual reality, games, personal computers and portable devices. The new family of Cirrus Logic CS40L25 boosted haptic drivers allows electronics companies to create personalized user experiences beyond the simple-action response of today’s mechanical buttons.
Rao said that consumer devices are thinner and more screen-oriented, and that haptics can now provide consumers with a richer, more tactile experience. This can range from a distinct vibration that identifies a caller to a sharp click that feels better for a user who presses a virtual button on a glass screen. Earlier haptic feedback was more like a buzzing effect, said Rao.
At the same time, Rao said that removing the buttons can simplify the design of a digital product, making it easier to build, cheaper, and more reliable.
For smartphones, some of the Cirrus Logic solutions can reduce the size of a haptic component by 50%, saving space and costs, said Rao.
New haptic solutions from Cirrus Logic can help create contextual “virtual” buttons for almost any surface. By eliminating mechanical buttons, product designers can create a cleaner, more elegant industrial design aesthetic without physical buttons.
Automobiles, PCs, portable devices and game controllers also go beyond traditional button interfaces with non-mechanical haptic feedback. Different versions of the sensor chips are shipped in volume or available in samples. Customers will design them in devices that will appear later in 2020.
“Game controllers are an obvious use of haptics, but we are also very excited about the possibilities of virtual and augmented reality from a game point of view,” said Rao.
Rao said the company is working on a second generation device that integrates multiple devices into one, such as placing the sensor and the feedback mechanism in the same chip.
“This will simplify the product in terms of cost, size and area,” said Rao.
The future is one where some things will get interesting if you remember the combinations of Steven Spielberg Ready Player One movie, where you could feel someone touching your virtual chest in a VR experience.
“Obviously, for us, the big thing to come will happen in the world of virtual reality, because it’s really difficult to do,” said Rao. “The next big thing we will be looking at is clearly virtual reality. It’s very complicated to make a gesture and then produce comments when you don’t touch anything physical. “