Motors & Music

Haptics research engages with the questions of tactile perception and feedback. In recent years, haptics research has produced a couple of promising interfaces which are meant to bring closer digital information and the sense of touch [1, 2, 3]. This domain, however, is rather underdeveloped in terms of teaching due in large part to the fact that the devices that are used to create experimentations are either not publicly available nor affordable for students to get directly engaged with.

With the Motors & Music Platform, David Gauthier, Bill Verplank and Jakob Bak, present teaching material focused on dynamic force feedback and sound synthesis for the learning of haptics. While toolkits for sketching and quickly prototyping haptics interfaces using vibro-tactile devices have been devised in the past [4], David, Bill and Jakob are proposing to expand this initiative by introducing simple dynamic force feedback devices with high temporal resolution. Using simple and low-cost tool sets that they have developed specifically for engaging interaction designers with the study of haptics, their aim is to advance the quality of haptics research and experimentation in the classroom. The approach is to provide students with specific and simple servomechanisms which feature high resolution sampling rates (position sensing) while offering high output refresh rates (torque control and sound).


The first is the Plank [5], repurposed voice-coil motors from old disk drives  which have been retrofitted with hall-effect sensors to provide position feedback information to the Motors&Music boards. The second is repurposed, motorized sliders from mixing consoles featuring a potentiometer to track slider positions. Combining these elements participants will be able to utilise the libraries to do embedded real-time integrated sound synthesis and dynamics control of the devices.


During the course, simple physical modelling techniques are be introduced in order to program first-order and second-order dynamics (position, velocity and acceleration) for both input (touch control) and output (force feedback) and produce perceptual phenomena such as springs, friction, damping, and oscillations. Mappings between the physical model of the haptic device and the on-board sound engine will focus on tone generation, pitch control, and frequency detuning.

[1] Bau, O., Poupyrev, I. 2012. REVEL: Tactile Feedback Technology for Augmented Reality.ACM Trans. Graph. 31 4, Article 89 (July 2012), 11 pages.
[2] Bau, O., Poupyrev, I., Israr, A. and Harrison, C. 2010. TeslaTouch: electrovibration for touch surfaces. In Proc. of UIST’10, ACM, 283-292.
[3] Israr, A. and Poupyrev, I. 2011. “Tactile brush: Drawing on skin with a tactile grid display”. In Proc. of CHI’11, ACM, 2019-2028
[4] Moussette, C. “Designing Haptics” – Studio, TEI 2012.
[5] Verplank, B., Gurevich, M. and Mathews, M. 2002. “The PLANK: designing a simple haptic controller”. Proc. NIME ’02, ACM Press.

Bill Verplank
David Gauthier