Haptic feedback in a car: How is it made possible?

Haptic feedback, much like Apple’s Force Touch technology—seen in MacBook and Apple Watch, among other devices—is made possible by an electromagnetic actuator, clicking noises, animations, and colour changes.

By:Published: December 28, 2019 9:29:16 AM

Almost all cars in India today have a central touchscreen—to operate various multimedia and climate control functions. It’s as simple a touch as one is used to on a modern smartphone. However, if you’ve driven the new Audi A6 sedan, you’ll find the touchscreen feeds back to your touch—it provides haptic feedback, and there is a unique soft sound with every single touch. Audi calls it the MMI Touch Response (MMI is short for Multi Media Interface). It’s available in all new-generation Audi cars globally—right now in the A6 in India, and will be seen in the new Q8 (to be launched in January 2020), followed by the A8.

The MMI Touch Response functions on two MMI touchscreens on the centre console. These are pressure-sensitive and react to touch, or even the proximity of a finger, with haptic feedback. This means that using the touchscreen feels like pressing a mechanical button.

How is it made possible?

This haptic feedback, much like Apple’s Force Touch technology—seen in MacBook and Apple Watch, among other devices—is made possible by an electromagnetic actuator, clicking noises, animations, and colour changes. The upper MMI touchscreen contains the infotainment system; the lower screen is positioned optimally for handwriting input and/or climate control. While the placement of the upper screen is appropriate, the lower screen is placed a bit too low for comfort—it can be tricky to operate in a moving car, as you might have to take your eyes off the road. To make up for that, certain Audi cars have an optional head-up display that reflects information on the windscreen, in the driver’s direct line of view.

The A8—it will be likely launched in India in February 2020—takes the connectivity experience to newer highs. The software in the A8 can analyse commands in the cloud. This may allow the driver to adjust, for example, the air conditioner with a voice command or interrupt the system with new commands.

In future vehicles, and not just Audi, expect to see new technologies like voice control, surround-displays, remote control, 3D controls, VR and even holography. In a few years from now, you might not even need a ‘touch’, haptic or otherwise.

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