Have you ever eaten trail mix while driving? No need to look into the bag to make selections: M&Ms, cashews, or raisins are easy picking thanks to the sense of touch or haptics, which is how fingers “see”. I extrapolated the trail mix experience to haptic stickers which I put on different car controls. I wanted to see whether doing this improved my driving experience when placed on the A) steering wheel cancel cruise control button, B) drive button and C) heads-up display.
Here’s what I found:
- For steering wheel buttons that adjust cruise control (left photo), my right thumb moved back and forth between the toggle that adjusts speed to the cancel button that has a haptic sticker on its surface. If the haptic sticker was not there, I would either have to look down to find it or use the brake pedal. Either of these options would require more effort or be more distracting. Because the steering wheel button application was helpful, I have applied more haptic stickers to other buttons and continue to rely on them.
- The orange haptic sticker on the drive button (middle photo) was helpful to a lesser degree. I need to reach for the button to start driving and watch the movement of my finger. Having a distinct tactile target may still be helpful by providing tactile feedback when the button has been touched and possibly by shortening the time that I am visually guiding my reach.
- The haptic stickers on the heads-up display (right photo) took more getting used to but also may have also be advantageous like with the drive button. Having a tactile target seems more natural, satisfying and confirmatory than reaching for a flat screen without distinct tactile features. Flat screens take one’s eyes off the road. It is distracting to need to watch one’s finger while reaching, study the display, and make sure that the desired option has been selected. (Consumer reports provides a nice review on this topic.)
Conclusion. I found it helpful to add tactile features to the controls in my car, especially on the steering wheel but to a lesser degree when reaching. Doing this helped keep my eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. In other words, keep haptics close at hand. You would not want to eat your trail mix any other way!
WARNING: THIS PURPOSE OF THIS POST IS TO ILLUSTRATE HOW ADDING TACTILE FEATURES TO BUTTONS MAY BE USEFUL. BECAUSE SAFETY STUDIES HAVE NOT BEEN DONE ON PERSONALIZED TACTILE MODIFICATION OF CONTROLS, SOFTREK DOES NOT RECOMMEND THAT READERS FOLLOW THESE EXAMPLES. SOFTREK INC ASSUMES NO RESPONSIBILITY IN THIS REGARD FOR ANY INJURY, DEATH, OR LOSS OF ANY KIND. THE PERSONALIZED MODIFICATIONS DESCRIBED ABOVE HAVE NOT BE ENDORSED BY ANY MANUFACTURER OR REGULATORY INSTITUTION.
PHOTOGRAPHS ARE DERIVED FROM MAXI_AIDS, INC “BUMP-DOTS” AND ACURA VEHICLE AND iSTOCK PHOTO. NO ENDORSEMENT BY THESE COMPANIES OF THIS POST IS IMPLIED AND iSTOCK PHOTO.