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VHP: Vibrotactile Haptics Platform for On-body Applications

Dimitri Kanevsky
Malcolm Slaney
UIST, ACM, https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/3472749.3474772 (2021)
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Wearable vibrotactile devices have many potential applications, including novel interfaces and sensory substitution for accessibility. Currently, vibrotactile experimentation is done using large lab setups. However, most practical applications require standalone on-body devices and integration into small form factors. Such integration is time-consuming and requires expertise. To democratize wearable haptics we introduce VHP, a vibrotactile haptics platform. It comprises a low-power, miniature electronics board that can drive up to 12 independent channels of haptic signals with arbitrary waveforms at 2 kHz. The platform can drive vibrotactile actuators including LRAs and voice coils. Each vibrotactile channel has current-based load sensing, thus allowing for self-testing and auto-adjustment. The hardware is battery powered, programmable, has multiple input options, including serial and Bluetooth, as well as the ability to synthesize haptic signals internally. We conduct technical evaluations to determine the power consumption, latency, and how number of actuators that can run simultaneously. We demonstrate applications where we integrate the platform into a bracelet and a sleeve to provide an audio-to-tactile wearable interface. To facilitate more use of this platform, we open-source our design and partner with a distributor to make the hardware widely available. We hope this work will motivate the use and study of vibrotactile all-day wearable devices.