Request Demo
Request Demo

To utilize our sense of touch, electronic devices (e.g., phone screens or video game controllers) can produce vibrations or other pressure sensations, otherwise known as haptic feedback. This technology is currently limited in terms of the kind of feedback it can provide along with the types of devices that it can be incorporated into.

To increase the usefulness and usability of haptic feedback, Apple filed and recently won a patent for a flexible interactive material designed to broaden the range of devices that can receive user inputs as well as incorporate haptic feedback. This technology has the potential to transform workplace wellness and optimization. Below is a broad overview of Apple’s haptic technology (AHT), which draws on Apple’s own descriptions of its potential use cases, and how it might be utilized to enhance well-being and improve organizational health.

 

AHT 

The complete description of AHT is contained within their 28-page patent. Many of the details are far too nuanced and complex to be included here. However, a broad overview of its description in regard to wearable devices will help the reader fully appreciate its potential.

Apple’s technology centers around the use of what are known as electroactive polymers or piezoelectric materials. These substances change their shape when an electrical current is applied to them. In AHT, electroactive polymers will be sandwiched between two ordinary layers of fabric.  

interactive patchPhoto Credit: Patently Apple

To deform the fabric, a processing unit will send signals to a pair of electrodes surrounding the polymers. As the polymers move in response to the electrical signals, the flexible fabric around it will move as well, ultimately creating pressure or tactile sensations for the wearer. Additionally, the processing unit will be able to incorporate inputs from the user to control various electronic devices.

 

Intended And Potential Use Cases

When discussing the applications for AHT in their patent, Apple makes a number of tantalizing claims, many of which articulate the ways in which their technology, when embedded in clothing items (e.g., gloves, watch straps, etc.) can enhance virtual reality (VR) experiences. In particular, they note that:

The electronic device […] and the virtual reality device may create an encompassing sensory experience that allows a user to experience, interact with, and/or control a virtual environment in a manner analogous to a user's interactions with a corresponding physical environment.

 

Moreover, they note that these interactions will induce forms of haptic feedback that simulate the experience of touching or grabbing items in the real world. They state:

The flexible fabric […] may translate relative to the user […] to produce a pressure sensation of an object represented within the virtual environment when the user interacts with the object using the electronic device

 

Though Apple did not mention how their technology might be used for workplace wellness and organizational optimization, the general remarks mentioned above have the potential for several organizationally relevant implications. In particular, the technology has the potential to be used to:

  1. Enhance workplace VR: AHT may make workplace VR more immersive and easier to use, lessening some drawbacks of remote work.
  2. Improve the gamification of wellness activities: For some individuals, wellness activities can be difficult to stick to. In order to make getting and staying well easier, wellness experts have tried to make a game out of it. Most recently, they have done so with the use of VR. AHT will make these activities even more fun and engaging.
  3. Increase the effectiveness of various psychotherapeutic techniques: Researchers have found that VR can expedite exposure therapy, a psychological treatment used to help individuals confront their fear’s by imagining or placing themselves in scenarios that are increasingly similar to whatever they are nervous about. By simulating the haptic sensations associated with the situations that individuals are fearful of, AHT might make virtual exposure therapy that much more potent.

Only time will tell whether AHT is produced and how it will be utilized. As such, the above-mentioned applications are merely speculative. However, they point to an exciting potential future for the workplace wellness and optimization industry.            

Get our latest articles delivered straight to your inbox!

Metaverse’s Impact On Employee Social Well-Being

Silicon Valley is hard at work creating the building blocks for the metaverse—an immersive digital...

Pulse Check: Should Technology Be Used To Prevent Burnout?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), burnout is characterized by “feelings of energy...

Blood Sugar Monitors: Novel Use Cases For Non-Diabetic Individuals

Medical treatments occasionally have unintended benefits and use cases. This occurs most commonly...

12 Questions To Ask During Your Next Wellness Platform Demo

Whether you’re exploring wellness programs for the first time or are a seasoned veteran looking for...

12 Ideas For Virtual Health Fair Success

One effective way for an organization to improve employee well-being is to provide an opportunity...

Empathy, Virtual Reality, And Workplace Optimization

Empathy, often understood as the tendency or ability to take the perspective of others and feel the...

Is Remote Work Bad For Innovation?

Successful business requires that good ideas get generated on a consistent basis and end up in the...

Case Study: Apple’s Workplace Location Flexibility Policy

The pandemic forced many organizations to run an unintended field experiment in remote business...

Pulse Check: Employee Back Pain Management Programs

Every month, Wellable asks a single question to the large, growing, and dedicated community of...

On-Site Health Fairs Go Virtual

One effective way to improve the well-being of one’s workforce is to provide them with an...