Can the commercialisation of VR provide the jump-start that the haptics industry has been waiting for?

Author:Hayward, James
Position::DATABASE AND NETWORK INTELLIGENCE
 
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Haptics are key technologies found as an essential feature enhancing the user experience in many very familiar products today. Whether as notification provision in a vibrating smartphone, tension building in a video game controller, or input confirmation in an industrial scanner, haptics technologies have now reached billions of electronics devices. The new report from IDTechEx Research, Haptics 2017-2027: Technologies, Markets and Players finds that the haptics industry will be worth $2.8bn by 2027.

In the recent past, the haptics industry had been short of prominent success stories. After the huge success that saw haptic actuators adopted ubiquitously in products like smartphones, the industry then suffered increasing commoditisation, high levels of competition and shrinking margins. The eccentric rotating mass (ERM) motor dominated for many years, and it is only recently that linear resonant actuators (LRAs) have taken significant amounts of market share, enabling some fresh growth. Even this change has not significantly shifted the haptics hardware landscape, as similar players tend to control market share around both types of actuator.

The entry barriers for players with new haptics technologies were critically high; the cheap, reliable and effective incumbents in the smartphone market have been infallible. Whilst companies large and small were able to differentiate using new technologies to provide new sensations, form factors or ideas, few came close to upsetting the status quo.

As such, these players increasingly looked away from replacing the incumbents in existing market, and instead towards the generation of brand new markets for their new haptic actuators. In the automotive space, many players have advanced significantly along the long journey towards commercial validation and adoption, but progress has been slow. The boom in interest around wearable technology brought new players and new interest. For example, smartwatches could have new haptics in the body of the device or even in the watch strap, apparel products should need actuators that are flexible with the textile rather than bulky motors, and so on. Again, this drove some more interest, but...

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