While we use all five senses to experience the world, the sense of touch is one to which we give little thought. However, touch integrates with the other senses in complex and powerful ways – every second of every day. We receive innumerable signals from touch; the glide of fabric across the skin, a breeze on the face, the touch of a keyboard, the resistance of water in a lake.
“Touch,” or somatosensation, is divided in three parts: tactile, proprioceptive, and temperature. “Haptics” includes tactile and proprioceptive feedback. The field of haptics in technology was created to replicate these senses. Research has shown that the human finger can discriminate between surfaces patterned with ridges as small as thirteen nanometers in amplitude1,2, where one sheet of paper has a thickness of 100,000 nanometers. This is astounding when we consider trying to replicate this through technology.