This year at CES we had the chance to catch up again with Vivitouch to learn what's new with the haptic feedback technology company. Mad Catz is the latest to adopt the feedback technology into its gaming headset, the F.R.E.Q. 4D. Besides being a follow up to the 3, it's called 4D because the Vivitouch technology gives it a forth dimension.
For those unfamiliar with Vivitouch technology provides physical feedback through the use of actuators. The applications of the technology have a big overlap with traditional vibration motors used today in phones and gaming controllers, but Vivitouch does it a completely different way.
Rather than using motors, which are power hungry and imprecise, Vivitouch uses electroactive polymers that react when a current is applied to them. This means a faster response with less power draw.
Vivitouch-enabled headphones Mad Catz and Able Planet use the actuators to simulate the bone-conducting feel of really big speakers and subwoofers. Rather than achieving the "feel" of the sound through volume, it does so simply through vibrations.
What we hadn't seen before was the stacked actuator. The existing design for years was flat, which was fine to integrate into headphones that had a lot of room to spare. For mobile devices, however, the flat design wasn't flat enough as the actuators could possibly contribute to overall thickness of the device. The stacked actuator itself is thicker, but we're told is easier to package inside. Imagine you had a ream of paper: stacking them makes them more manageable than laying them all out in a single layer.
The Vivitouch technology is sound – no pun intended – and that's why it's making its way into headphones. A yet-to-be-named Japanese headphone company will soon be joining Mad Catz and Able Planet with its own offering.
We've seen the concepts, and now we hope to see Vivitouch's electroactive polymers applied to real consumer mobile phones, gaming controllers, and wearables, as vibration motors seem just primitive by comparison.