Samsung is breaking ground in the world of haptics- the technology of recreating touch and texture through artificial stimuli.

By the end of March, Samsung will release an upgraded mobile phone with a difference. Apart from sending images and video, the phone will vibrate in such a way as to enable the user to add the sensation of a tickle to a text message, or make the person on the receiving end feel as if their handset has slapped them across the face.

Till date haptics is applied to video gaming, in the vibrating game pads and force-feedback steering wheels. These devices give a sense virtual reality on the joystick, or let a player feel how he or she is in the game; a part of it ; how close to being run off the road in racing games.

Samsung’s latest phone in the offing is the first ever mass-market use of haptics. When you send a text message you can add one of a number of sensations from a menu. When the person reads the message, “vibrotactile” motors in their phone are activated. These are more complex versions of the motors that make mobile phones vibrate. Precise regulation of frequency and amplitude of the vibrations by the motors simulates the desired sensation.

“I have been waiting for this for a few years. It’s a challenge to develop systems that are low-cost and lightweight,” says Ed Colgate, a mechanical engineer who works on haptics at Northwestern University in Chicago.

Haptic technology in the new Samsung phones has been developed by Immersion of San Jose, California. Analysts are now looking forward many more applications, for example, in haptic gloves and pads designed to give online shoppers a feel for products.

More here.