A magnetically levitated hammer for customizable haptics

January 30, 2019 //By Julien Happich
A magnetically levitated hammer for customizable haptics
Santa Clara-based startup Nanoport announced it is now ready for the commercialization of a novel type of haptic actuators, whose feel and characteristics can be fully customized, both through software and hardware.

The startup, originally a team of engineers doing research and development for Canadian company Nano Magnetics involved in the design and distribution of magnet-based toys, was spun out in 2015 shortly after it had figured out how to design a magnetic connector capable of transferring USB data as well as power. Moving to the Silicon Valley nearer to its potential customer base and renamed Nanoport Technology Inc., the startup demonstrated various use cases for its magnetic connectors.

The Nanoport magnetic connectors in action,
enabling content to flow across multiple screens.

One in particular includes the extensive use of software to operate snap-on hinge assemblies as smart connectors that enable collaborative apps across multiple smartphone displays, or content flowing across a larger display area.

But while patents were applied for this IP and potential customers could experiment with Nanoports, the company also pursued a more readily accessible market, that of gaming consoles and VR headsets where volumes are considerably lower and for which haptics provide an increased level of immersion.

The TacHammer Carlton and a transversal cut of
the haptic device.

Addressing this market, the company demonstrated the TacHammer back in 2017, described as a new class of Linear Magnetic Ram (LMR) based haptic actuators combining a balanced magnetic array and an impact mechanism. In effect, the device integrates a magnetically levitated “hammer” that can be controlled to oscillate at varying amplitudes (for soft vibrations) but also to hit one end of the casing (at different frequencies) for sharp clicks and textures. The cylindrical 'Carlton' haptic actuator just announced by the company is already a second generation unit. Designed modularly, it lets developers fine-tune the sharpness of clicks and jolts (with different cap materials) and adjust the travel length of the hammer (with spacers) to customize its operating frequencies, response time, power and efficiency.

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