Immersion’s TouchSense never gets old

San Jose (CA) – Immersion has been pitching its TouchSense technology for nearly as long as I have been been a tech journalist, first with force feedback products, which eventually made big bucks for the company through video game controllers, but few other products have adopted the firm’s ideas. Immersion now has a new TouchSense twist – immersive messaging, which adds a “feel” to plain messaging.

Immersion imagines that today’s SMS and MMS messages aren’t immersive enough and that they could  get much more interesting by adding tactile feedback. For example, you could pour a glass of champagne by holding your cellphone like a bottle, or you could blow your spouse a kiss by drawing a heart in the air and tilting your phone. If you are travelling and miss your wife, you could interact with her by simultaneously drawing lines on a shared screen. When the lines cross, the phone vibrates. Makes you tingle. Well, almost.

Immersion also showed off a more advanced concept to add tactile feedback to onscreen keyboards in smartphones, which should make them more effective. In the end, humans tend to interact much better with devices they can actually feel. Back in 1996, Immersion explained this concept to me when they revealed their force feedback mouse concept. Ever imagined how difficult it would be to pick up a cup of coffee simply seeing it, but not being able to feel it? This explanation still makes sense to me and I am sure we will see tactile feedback in onscreen keyboards down the road.

But immersive messaging? Not so much. The success of texting lies in its simplicity. Adding tactile feedback and countless new ways how to hold and move your phone isn’t exactly simple. In 2002, Immersion had come up with a concept to translate certain sounds into vibrations – and claimed that users would be able to perceive happy and angry vibrations. We all know where this idea has ended up. Immersive messaging looks like such a dead end as well. Immersion has posted a video demo of the idea on its website. Let us know what you think, perhaps we are entirely off-track here.