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Haptic Feedback

An Overview of Haptic Feedback

Many products have to communicate with their owners, users and operators to function. For the last 100 years the main communication methods available have been audible or visual.

There are examples of this in almost every type of electrical equipment; computers beep when switched on, remote controls use LEDs to show a button has been pressed, and telephones ring. In many cases these notification methods are very effective, but there are many others where product functionality can be improved by augmenting our sense of hearing and sight with our sense of touch.

For example electronic torque wrenches may be used in a noisy environment making the audible indicator ineffective, or in orientations where a visual indicator isn’t visible. In this example scenario, neither a buzzer nor an LED can be relied on to alert the operator of an event - e.g. the correct torque having been reached. Harnessing the operator’s sense of touch as a 3rd alerting method with controlled vibration is a practical and valuable solution.

A photo of an electronic torque wrench, with a red plastic handle, LCD screen and blue control buttons
A vibrating electronic torque wrench

Meanwhile, many every-day products are now being built with capacitive touch displays and interfaces. They’re cheaper to construct than control panels with discrete switches, and designers love the freedom to produce UI’s with unique shapes. But a big drawback is that capacitive interfaces offer no feedback that a ‘button’ has been pressed because there is no longer a mechanical click or touch feeling of a switch being pushed. Haptics technology can simulate the feeling of pressing tactile switches.

Both vibration alerting and haptic feedback methods use eccentric rotating mass (ERM) vibration motors or linear resonant actuators (LRAs) to generate the touch sensations, but they are used in different ways.

Haptic Feedback in Detail

For a closer look at haptics, including how to add it to a device, see our our in-depth guide either following it step-by-step or jumping to the chapter that interests you most. There are 5 different chapters taking you from an introduction and overview (with more explanation that the quick glance above), all the way through design advice before finally helping you source the necessary components.

The Haptic Feedback Evaluation Kit

Check out all the additional resources for your Haptic Feedback Evaluation Kit by clicking the image above. You'll find user manuals, additional documentation and resources, even tutorials with example applications.

If you don't own a kit, you can find lots of additional information about the features and see how it can be used. If you have any questions about if it is right for you, please get in touch.

Integration Guide : Haptic Feedback & Vibration Alerting for Handheld Products

In the Application Bulletins section of our website we have a guide to adding haptics to a handheld product. The guide expands on some of the information below, and is a great reference or quick start guide for those interested in haptic technology. To download the Integration Guide, simply click the image below:

Vibration Alerting Technology

Most notably, vibration is a standard feature in mobile phones as it takes advantage of the user's sense of touch to relay information. In more and more products, designers are implementing similar vibrating communications to interact with the operator.

Vibration alerting is simpler and cheaper to implement than haptics as the system does not need to provide a great level of detail to the user, it simply needs to convey that an event has occurred.

A photo of an ERM with a custom PCB soldered directly to the motor terminals, with several components soldered in the small PCB
A custom haptic controller attached to an ERM

Therefore the main considerations for design are the vibration amplitude and the power consumption. Vibration actuator ‘rise and lag’ times are not as important as with haptic feedback systems. We stock the widest range of vibrating motors available anywhere in the world, and many of our products are suitable for a range of vibration alerting applications, with a variety of vibration strengths and drive voltages.

Digital lines from application host processors can be used, or PWM signal control can also be used to altering the strength of vibration which may be desirable. Regarding circuitry, many vibration alerting methods can be implemented with a simple vibration motor drive components.

Vibration alerting became commonplace in mobile phones in the 1990s, and can now be found in a wide range of ubiquitous applications. Here are some examples:

  • Pagers
  • Silent watches
  • Healthy living bracelets
  • Restaurants / cafes - hand held devices are given to customers that vibrate when their food is ready for collection
  • Handheld medical instruments and industrial equipment user interfaces


Tactile feedback and vibration alerting functions offer different levels of information they provide to the user at different costs. Vibration alerting indicates an event has occurred, while haptics uses more advanced techniques to convey more information or better simulates tactile switches, through tactile feedback.

They are becoming popular in many new markets, with several haptics devices evolving from simpler vibration alerting models. The addition of haptic feedback or vibration alerting is a popular method for product differentiation and can help with a product’s competitive advantage.

Both technologies use similar actuators to mechanically produce the sense of touch, and Precision Microdrives offers the widest selection of both ERM and LRA vibration motors. Vibration feedback is easy to implement, whereas haptic feedback is more complex.