Use of haptics in healthcare set to grow

Report predicts 3D touch technology will have major benefits for healthcare 

Gove for 3D Touch technology
9th November 2020 about a 3 minute read

A new report on haptics, also known as 3D Touch, predicts haptic wellness technology will be among the fastest growing sectors over the next few years. 

It has been forecast over the next decade that designers, mobile devices, and Internet of Things (IoT) appliances will increasingly use touch surfaces with haptic feedback instead of physical buttons.

The report, Haptics: What the Future Feels Like, is published by Digital Catapault, a UK agency promoting digital innovation.

Uses in health

It claims haptic technology, where the user experiences electronically or mechanically generated movement through an interface, will be used in an increasing number of health applications.

Currently the technology is used in a variety of ways including wearable backpacks and vests that vibrate in time to audio enabling users to feel sound. 

And gloves and sleeves can manipulate the user’s sense of the weight of virtual objects or enable them to feel texture in the virtual world. 

Medical simulation

The report highlights examples including Imperial College London which uses haptic technology for medical simulation tools. 

These recreate interaction between a clinician and a patient during medical examinations and surgical procedures.

This is done either through direct palpation of the body or indirectly through the manipulation of instruments such as endoscopes, catheters and guidewires. 

This can help train future practitioners and provide real-time feedback on training. 

UK hub

The UK is a hub for haptic technology startups in areas including healthcare, robotics, manufacture and virtual reality (VR). 

The report says haptics, in combination with VR and AR (Augmented Reality) technology, could provide substantial benefits for healthcare. 

These could include:

  • Virtual surgeries
  • Rehabilitation systems
  • Video games for training staff

The video games could enable staff to approach difficult scenarios with patients and increase the percentage of accurate diagnoses 

The startups highlighted in the report include:

  • Valkyrie in London which is building the world’s first universal platform delivering a natural perception of touch by using machine learning to understand each individual’s muscle movements and sensory threshold
  • Marion Surgical in Salford which is working with surgeons from around the world to build a next generation suite of surgical simulators
  • TESLASUIT in London which has developed a full-body augmented reality suit and software suite. This accelerates the improvement of movement, reflexes and instincts.

Haptics are also expected to play a key part in the future of wearable devices. Wearables 1.0 monitored users’s actions. Wearables 2.0 added smart tracking and artificial intelligence to help people interpret their data. And wearables 3.0 will to provide real-time feedback through haptics. 

Imitates heartbeat

For example Doppel has demonstrated a wearable that imitates a user’s heartbeat helping those with anxiety stay calm during a panic attack. 

And haptic company Circular has presented a biometric ring that uses haptic pulses to wake the user using vibrations. This could be used for medical conditions such as chronic fatigue and narcolepsy. 

A copy of the report, Haptics: What the Future Feels Like is available here