The physical buttons disappear, and the bionic vibration fills in

Different from the rapid technological progress, the industrial design of mobile phones seems to have found the most mature solution. Under the torrent of time, mobile phones with a "smart" halo have evolved into square boxes carrying "full screens", and the interaction methods have also become similar.

Just as the iPhone led the era of smartphones, the emergence of the iPhone X has also accelerated the evolution of the "full screen" of mobile phones.

When Jony Ive proposed the "infinity pool" design, we always hope that the touch screen can accommodate all the operation processes, make the interface easy to use first, and constantly abandon those skeuomorphic elements, and comprehensively move towards a simple and smooth The direction is closer to achieve the flat style that we are now familiar with.

Based on the increasingly larger "full screen", the number of physical buttons on smartphones is also decreasing. We no longer need physical buttons such as the Home button, just as we no longer need a skeuomorphic interface.

But have you noticed that humans have long been accustomed to buttons, or in other words, we have long been accustomed to the most direct tactile feedback.

The most intuitive example is the Home button on the iPhone 7 series back then. Even though it is just a groove that cannot be pressed, it still provides a physical vibration that seems to have been pressed and rebounded, which can be described as fake.

Today, we are still obsessed with the realistic touch brought by vibration feedback. From the perspective of manufacturers, this kind of vibration solution that pursues realistic feeling is called "bionic touch".

Physical buttons are disappearing, and vibration feedback is filling in

I asked ChatGPT: What was the first cell phone with a vibration function?

▲Motorola StarTAC. Picture from: alvinfoo

It answered me: Motorola StarTAC launched in 1994. And earlier on the paging body, the vibration function has also been provided by the built-in motor.

It can be said that since then, the vibration function of the mobile phone has established its notification interaction value. When it is necessary to keep quiet, the vibration method is used to remind the user of new news.

Of course, the interaction method of vibration feedback is also changing. We can not only obtain video and pictures through our eyes, obtain sound through our ears, but also obtain perception through tactile feedback.

▲ Picture from: iFixit

The first thing that impressed me with haptic vibration was the Force Touch trackpad that was first used on the 12-inch MacBook in 2015.

In addition to the original touch and light touch of the MacBook touchpad, Apple introduced a new layer of interaction called "heavy pressure", which made this capacitive touchpad thinner and lighter, but brought a deeper level of interaction. interactive mode.

Of course, the iPhone 6s released in the same year also brought 3D Touch interaction based on this technology. Although the 3D Touch feature is fleeting, the Taptic Engine hidden inside the iPhone, AppleWatch and MacBook continues to this day.

Based on the series of interactive experiences derived from the horizontal linear motor of the Taptic Engine module, the iPhone and MacBook have indeed gained relatively leading points.

Hong Tan, a professor of haptics at Purdue University, once spoke highly of the Taptic Engine's effect:

This click feeling is very similar to "tapped back", but as far as I know so far, the Taptic Engine actually moves laterally… This is very clever, because human skin perceives lateral vibrations better than vertical vibrations sharper.

While cutting off the physical buttons, while replacing the real feedback brought by the buttons with functions such as vibration feedback, this seems to be a contradiction, but it also shows that the feedback brought by the physical buttons is what users need.

Now, we are used to the lightness and convenience of tapping the glass panel with our fingers. Even if the virtual keyboard does not provide tapping sound and feedback, we can skillfully use the mobile phone to type and chat with others for hours.

There may be many people who have not turned on the vibration feedback of the mobile phone input method, but using the virtual keyboard to type on the screen and wanting to get real tapping feedback is actually a need for efficiency and precision.

A study from the University of Massachusetts shows that if the electronic device can add vibration feedback to the virtual keyboard, the accuracy of the user's typing will be further improved. After all, on a completely smooth virtual keyboard, users occasionally wonder if they really "pressed" a key.

Haptic feedback can also be applied to games. We have reported a video game "Florence" on the App Store. The developer has introduced corresponding feedback in many details, such as slight resistance when brushing teeth left and right. When the item is placed on the shelf, there is a sense of falling, the feeling of the gear turning when the button is turned, and so on.

During the game, when the puzzle is completed, the fingertips will bounce back briefly with the crisp sound. It all matched the sense of weightlessness, and the player's heart sank to the bottom of the valley.

For these experiences, we can accurately feel the gradual and delicate emotions through the Taptic Engine on the iPhone, and it is also an interactive gameplay that is different from traditional games.

The best example of tactile feedback applied to game scenes should be the Nintendo Switch, which adds a larger linear motor to the detachable Joy-Con handle and introduces the concept of "HD vibration".

When playing the game, the player can even feel the "number of balls in the box" and the feeling of "milking the cow" through the vibration feedback of the Joy-Con simulation, which undoubtedly improves the game's realism and brings players A more immersive gaming experience.

Bionic touch is an essential component of an advanced smartphone experience

For a long time, in terms of publicity strategies, most mobile phone manufacturers have focused on appearance design, performance, camera images, etc., and rarely waste too much ink on details such as "vibration feedback".

After all, vibration is not a function that can be conveyed to consumers simply by text and pictures or audio-visual media. Consumers need to try it themselves before they can have an intuitive impression of the quality of mobile phone vibration.

This has also led to a large variance in the vibration experience of mobile phones. As we mentioned in the article before: most products do not pay attention to the strength and length of mobile phone vibration, whether it is an incoming call reminder or a text message notification. , or press the virtual button, it's just a strong "嗡!!!", which is just perfunctory.

So today, many people still don’t like to turn on the vibration feedback of the input method, and many netizens still say on Weibo that the vibration of the mobile phone is a “hand off” function. The reason is that the vibration of those mobile phones is not "intimate" enough.

If the vibration is just right, it can bring a certain amount of information while being delicate, and improve the human-computer interaction experience, then I believe that most people will enjoy the intuitive perception brought by this realistic touch.

Therefore, the composition of the high-end sense of smartphones is also inseparable from the tactile interaction.

In my impression, after the release of the iPhone 6s, delicate vibration feedback has become a new pursuit of the smartphone industry. I still remember that at the beginning of 2020, there was a heated discussion on Weibo about whether the vibration sound of mobile phone typing was "buzzing" or "da da da".

It seems that from this point in time, mobile phone manufacturers began to discuss the matter of vibration on the table, and began to popularize linear motors with better experience, and consumers also began to have more and more attention to the motors that occupy more and more volume inside the mobile phone. More attention.

Compared with the compact rotor motor and vertical linear motor in the past, the horizontal X-axis linear motor takes up more space in the fuselage. It was also an "excuse" for the iPhone 7 series to cut off the 3.5mm headphone jack, but the X-axis linear motor The motor also brings greater advantages in terms of power consumption and the fine level of feedback.

Can the X-axis linear motor that gets bigger and bigger alone bring a bionic tactile experience? The answer is obviously no. In addition to the quality and grade of the device, the post-optimization of the tactile feedback algorithm cannot be ignored.

AAC Technology, which provides vibration motor components for most Android flagship phones, is also the first supplier in the world to invent and mass-produce X-axis linear motors. It currently occupies about 80% of the linear motor market. It is also in the lead.

While self-developing hardware, AAC Technologies is also aware of the importance of software algorithms, so over the years, AAC Technologies has also formed an algorithm team and launched the RichTap tactile feedback solution. Through the vertical integration of software and hardware, AAC Technologies is based on a complete set of perception solutions, and also cooperates with terminal manufacturers to create a full-link realistic tactile experience. Ding Xiang, General Manager of the Acoustics and Electromagnetic Marketing Department of AAC Technologies, said at the Bionic Touch Open Day:

AAC is a solution provider dedicated to opening up the full-link Haptics capability, and may also be the leader who knows the Haptics interactive experience best.

From the perspective of terminal manufacturers, they are also willing to explore the depth of tactile interaction.

OnePlus, which began to emphasize "product power first" this year, seems to have begun to focus on the linear motor part very early. Whether it is customized hardware or software joint tuning, it gives us a feeling that we have spared no effort. .

Recently, OnePlus officially announced that it will continue to join hands with AAC Technologies to jointly establish the "OnePlus & AAC Bionic Touch Laboratory". Mature.

Without tactile feedback, human-computer interaction may cause some obstacles, including reduced accuracy, lack of interaction and information, barriers to accessibility, and so on.

In order to allow users to express a real sense of touch in the virtual world, AAC Technologies builds a "realistic sense of touch" based on the six perceptual attributes of hardness, roughness, speed, quality, elasticity, and rhythm.

At present, the CSA0916A X-axis linear motor is a representative work of the fourth generation of AAC technology, and it is also the hardware basis for realizing realistic touch in smartphones. It has a volume of more than 600mm³, a steady-state vibration of 1.4Grms, covers an ultra-wideband frequency of 50Hz-500Hz, and is equipped with OnePlus 11 for the first time.

Wang Xiuyue, a user experience expert of tactile feedback from AAC Technologies, said that the generation of perceptual attributes is determined by physical attributes. To satisfy the realistic tactile sensation, there must be sufficient upper and lower limits in terms of intensity, frequency, and duration.

To express the slight vibration of the breeze and to restore the frustration of lightning and thunder, it is necessary to delicately control the intensity and frequency and the duration of the response through algorithms.

The algorithm is still iterating, and the experience of bionic touch is also improving in the direction of "realism". After eight months, the CSA0916 bionic vibration motor was used by OnePlus Ace 2 Pro again.

As the saying goes, "Scholars should wait three days with admiration." On the premise that the vibration motor hardware remains consistent, the newly released OnePlus Ace 2 Pro should also have a relatively better tactile experience.

In this regard, Li Jie, President of OnePlus China, said confidently at the AAC Bionic Vibration Open Day:

When OnePlus 11 was released, we said that "in the coming year, there will be no rivals". After 8 months of tuning and optimization, the vibration experience has been upgraded again. Based on the jointly optimized full-phase magnetic circuit technology, Ace 2 Pro will bring more than 500 system vibration scene adjustments, as well as high-quality vibration adaptation for those "mainstream games".

As for the experience, we can only know after the press conference and experience it in person.

The tactile experience is similar to the sense of hearing, which is more subjective. But it is worth affirming that the realistic tactile feedback has great potential value, and users can obtain a more immersive interactive experience.

Under the trend of screens constantly replacing everything, the physical form of buttons may be dying out, but buttons, as a kind of efficient human-computer interaction method, are simple and direct enough, and it is still worthwhile for manufacturers and developers to continue to explore the depth of its interaction.

The bionic tactile direction chosen by OnePlus and AAC Technology can be regarded as finding a new interactive form for the disappearing physical buttons. It has achieved a more accurate balance between eliminating the physical buttons of mobile phones and providing real tactile feedback. , which may be more meaningful than discussing the existence value of the physical buttons themselves.

When the tactile feedback from the fingertips is real enough, maybe we won't miss the physical buttons too much.

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