The company that’s responsible for the rumble in your Xbox One and PlayStation 4 controllers wants to elevate your interactions with mobile gaming through touch.
Immersion, a technology company focused on haptic feedback in devices, revealed today that it’s launching its new TouchSense Engage product for mobile. This is a suite of tools developers can use to add a huge number of custom touch and vibration events to matchup various actions in a game without draining the battery. With revenues on mobile reaching $30 billion, many developers are looking for any possible advantage — and Immersion is positioning TouchSense Engage as something that can provide that separation.
“We’ve been at this for a long time,” Immersion head of mobile gaming Nick Thomas told GamesBeat. “We’ve been creating technology and hardware solutions. We’ve enabled our partners to add haptics into peripherals for console and PC gaming. We’ve really taken all of that learning and rolled it into what we’re working on now, which is TouchSense Engage.”
Thomas explained that Immersion’s latest product works a lot like audio design. Developers can add extra feedback that shakes the device in a very specific way to help gamers realize they’ve done something good. Different actions, powerups, and celebrations can all set off different TouchSense Engage profiles. Players will naturally look forward to that feedback and could potentially find more enjoyment from a game thanks to it.
And the idea of touch feedback working like audio design is important on mobile. Nearly one in four people play with the sound off on their smartphones or tablets, according to analytics company Appington. In places like the U.K., nearly half of all mobile gamers play without sound.
Gaming without audio removes a huge chunk of the positive and negative feedback that players normally receive. Immersion expects developers will turn to TouchSense Engage to fill in that silence.
“We’re able to really convey a much higher resolution of detail and expression through haptics than we’ve ever been able to in the past,” said Thomas. “Our SDK unlocks the ability to drive the hardware in amazing ways.”
This includes subtle vibrations to staccato-style pulses that can indicate everything from foot steps to the rumbling of a roller coaster. You can get an idea of TouchSense’s capabilities by downloading the company’s showcase app.
What about the battery?
You’re probably wondering about what all this vibrating is going to do to your battery life. Well, Immersion says it’s not something people should worry about.
“The impact on power consumption is actually less than driving audio to the speaker a lot of times,” said Thomas.
Immersion provided GamesBeat with one of its own internal reports to back up that claim.
“The study found that overall demands on the battery for a device that powered 25 haptics-enabled phone calls, 50 text messages, 4 hours of e-mail, and two hours of gaming in a single, 24-hour session, were minor,” read the report. “The percentage of battery capacity required to power all of these use-cases ranged from .95 percent to 7.1 percent.”
Thomas said that the battery-life question is the one he gets the most, but he expects most people will get over it once they see that the power needs are not that demanding. But many gamers will likely want to see that for themselves before taking his word for it.
Doing more than just inventing the tech
Immersion has worked on haptics since 1993. For most of that time, it has built the tech and let developers go off and figure it out. Not anymore. Now, the company wants to work with its partners to help them get the most out of the latest produce.
“I think one of the core takeaways from what we’re doing with TouchSense Engage is the proactive approach we’re taking with developers,” said Thomas.
The company has an in-house team of user-experience designers who are prepared to work with developers from around the world. They will come up with ideas and test them and use their expertise to make Immersion’s partner games better.
“In the gaming community, there is a constant push to be on the cutting edge of both technology and creativity,” said Thomas. “We’re seeing demand from top studios for tactile effects that are custom designed to enhance gameplay and work hand-in-hand with the audio and visual elements of the game. The TouchSense Engage solution pushes mobile game makers to think about the design of their game in a new dimension.”
And Immersion wants to help studios figure out that new dimension.
TouchSense Engage is available now. Developers can try a free evaluation version on the company’s website. Studios can also request a light version of the development kit that doesn’t feature custom effects. To get the full library of possible effects, however, Immersion will license the TouchSense Engage to studios who need it.