“Maglev Haptics: Butterfly Haptic’s New User Interface Technology” by Hollis

  • ©Ralph Hollis

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    Maglev Haptics: Butterfly Haptic's New User Interface Technology

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Entry Number: 23


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    There is an increasing interest in haptic (sense of touch) interaction with computers. A new kind of haptic system has recently been developed at Carnegie Mellon University and commercialized by Butterfly Haptics. The system eliminates the bulky links, cables and general mechanical complexity of other haptic devices on the market today in favor of a single lightweight moving part that floats on magnetic fields.

    At the heart of the maglev haptic interface is a bowl-shaped assembly called a flotor that has six embedded coils of wire. Electric current flowing through the coils interacts with powerful permanent magnets, causing the flotor to levitate. A handle is attached to the flotor. A user moves the handle much like a computer mouse, but in three dimensions with six degrees of freedom – up/down, side to side, back/forth, yaw, pitch, and roll. Optical sensors measure the position and orientation of the flotor, and this information is used to control the position and orientation of a 3D virtual object. As this virtual object encounters other virtual surfaces and objects, currents are sent to the flotor’s coils, resulting in haptic feedback to the user. The new system provides extremely high performance levels resulting in a very “high fidelity” user experience.


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