Google plans to include haptic/tactile feedback engine into Android to… make their ads more effective

Looking from the business model point of view, Google is an advertising company. All their apps and services, almost all the technologies they are working on, are geared for one purpose only – get as much pageviews as possible to display ads on, and get as much information about you, to show the most actionable ads possible.

Today USPTO has published a patent application called “ Providing information through tactile feedback” that makes Google’s obsessive advertising priorities even more clear.

The patent app deals with the issue of the tactile/haptic feedback on touchscreen devices. The lack of such tactile feedback from our full touch smartphones and tablets, is probably one of the most annoying things about them.

Apple, Nokia, Samsung and other companies in the smartphone biz have been trying to solve the touch device tactile feedback problem for years. But, except for the rather primitive haptic engines that vibrate most of the device on touch event, outside an R&D lab, none of them has anything interesting to show us. But they will figure something out eventually.

And this brings us to Google, and their latest patent app. In it, Google does not go deep into the technologies of how to make the tactile/haptic feedback work. They do an overview of what might be possible, and how it might be done, but it is very broad and not really helpful. For all intents and purposes, Google just says that eventually the solution will be there. That devices with a very granular tactile feedback, along full surface of a touchscreen, will come along.

And then Google will be ready with their own “Tactile Interface Engine” inside Android, to …. display all those ads on Android smartphone,  with tactile feedback – to make them better and more effective.

Google tactile feedback 1

The ways to do so, described in the patent app, include:

Separating an ad displayed on a webpage with a border having a distinct tactile feel, so you notice when your finger is approaching the ad.

Google tactile feedback 2 border

Displaying multiple ads in separate tabs, and giving each ad different textures/feelings of roughness. The ad which is considered the most relevant will give the roughest feedback, the next one will give a different and lighter sensation, and so on.

If you decide to drag one of the background ads to a new place, the display will provide you with the physical feeling of dragging something, to keep you more focused.

Google tactile feedback 3 tabs

And those different textures of roughness? Well, they can be adjusted to the ad content, too:

if the content displayed in the first region 208 corresponds to an ad for a beach resort, the haptic feedback provided to the user in the first region 208 may be gritty like sand. As another example, if the content displayed in the first region 208 corresponds to an ad for a carbonated beverage, the haptic feedback provided to the user in the first region 208 may be bubbly. As yet another example, if the content displayed in the first region 208 corresponds to an ad for a hand lotion, the haptic feedback provided to the user in the first region 208 may be liquid and/or gel. Each of the haptic sensations providing a particular perceived sensation may be generated, for example, by the tactile interface engine 165 by manipulating voltage potentials between the electrode elements corresponding to the particular regions of the tactile interface 110.

Furthermore, the technology may become available, which allows Android’s Tactile Interface Engine to create separate regions on your smartphone display, that give you a feeling of distinct height. What would you do with such regions? Well, display differentially priced ads, of course. The higher the region feels, the more advertiser pays.

Google tactile feedback 4 height

Here’s the idea described in Google’s own words:

the perceived height above the tactile interface 110 of the first region 214 is greater than the perceived height of the second region 216, which is greater than the perceived height of the third region 218. As illustrated, moreover, the displayed regions, which may each display different content, are differently sized in area on the tactile interface 110, thereby allowing the user to access each of the regions 214, 216, and 218, through contact. In some aspects, a particular perceived height of a region may be tied to, for example, the content displayed in the region. For example, if the displayed content of several regions (such as regions 214, 218, and 218) are ads, the advertisers may pay more money for an ad placement in a region with a higher perceived level (such as the first region 214).

I would prefer that he, who finally solves the tactile feedback problem on our touchscreens, would do it for better keyboard and device controls. But you can’t blame Google for focusing on the things that bring in most of their money. And, if their focus on better ads helps bring truly tactile smartphone displays around faster, I will be happy. Even if its only for ad display first.

After all, when the problem is solved, the solution will quickly be applied to things that will actually make my smartphone better.

Author: Stasys Bielinis

While I like to play with the latest gadgets, I am even more interested in broad technology trends. With mobile now taking over the world - following the latest technology news, looking for insights, sharing and discussing them with passionate audience - it's hard to imagine a better place for me to be. You can find me on Twitter as @UVStaska'

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