Launched around 20 years ago, in 2001, HAPTIC COMMANDER™ is where HAPTIC™ all began, first appearing as part of the iDrive system for the BMW 7 Series. Jointly developed by Alps Alpine and Immersion Corporation (United States), it was the world’s first use of a tactile sensation device inside a vehicle cabin.
HAPTIC COMMANDER™ turned notions of automotive human-machine interfaces on their head. The product was created to meet the needs of automakers and drivers. The automotive industry had been exploring advanced systems and equipment enabling safer, more reliable cars for many years, with the ultimate goal of totally eliminating road deaths and injuries. Meanwhile, the increasingly sophisticated functionality of vehicles resulted in more features to control, like switches and screens, triggering concern that drivers were more likely to lower their gaze. Controls needed to be simplified.
Employed in place of mechanical switches, HAPTIC COMMANDER™ generates the best tactile sensation and feel for each operation by controlling the thrust and reaction force the actuator applies to the knob. Clicking through menus, the device lets you instinctively perceive whatever it is you are controlling from variations in the weight and resistance of the rotation; for example, smooth non-step rotation for audio volume control, or bumpy stepped rotation for air-con switching. Rather than just one kind of feel, HAPTIC COMMANDER™ flexibly switches between sensations, allowing integration of many of the functions used while driving in a single dial.
Safety and comfort are greatly improved because you command controls without lowering your gaze. It also easier to create a simple, neat and tidy interior space. HAPTIC COMMANDER™ meets stringent standards put in place by automakers, particularly in regard to safety, and offers freedom in generation of diverse types of feel. Such novel control sensations will come to be enjoyed by drivers the world over.
Ever since its launch in 2001, HAPTIC COMMANDER™ has continued to evolve through ongoing improvements and the inclusion of new technologies. The first module was an active type employing a motor, with advanced motor control used to generate vibrations and apply load, creating sensations using force pulling in the direction of rotation. Next to be developed was a passive HAPTIC COMMANDER™ that made use of electromagnetic braking. This excelled in creating sensations from force braking against the rotation. Alps Alpine pursues research on feel creation from a variety of angles depending on customer needs. We have even undertaken development and supply of configurations other than the much-used rotary type, including a joystick type that gives directional input when tilted.
The advantage of HAPTIC COMMANDER™ lies in extensive expertise acquired by Alps Alpine in the area of feel over many years. Automotive HMI product business began with single-function mechanical switches, each with its own function and feel, and evolved to include integrated mechanical switches, rated for their outstanding functionality even today, and a tactile sensation device that electrically and artificially generates various kinds of feel – HAPTIC COMMANDER™. Every one of them encompasses the formidable know-how needed to generate the exact ideal feel the customer is looking for. And in recent years, we have directed energy into personalization of products, which entails customizing feel according to brand image and drivers’ preferences.
To expand the possibilities of HAPTIC COMMANDER™ still further, Alps Alpine has developed a new module with both active and passive actuators. The module, drawing on the latest research findings, combines an innovative newly structured brake with a torque generator to enable more flexible and diverse generation of operating feel.
Development involved retaining the respective strengths of both active and passive types, while also dramatically reducing solid friction to realize a structure that does not degrade easily. Fewer parts were used to achieve simpler structure and control. The new addition further enhances the product lineup. Diverse options are available to match your needs. For example, there is a multifunction type that tilts four ways and has a push operation.
The active–passive module possesses numerous advantages and we have our sights on new markets in addition to automotive applications like shifters, pedals and doors. Integration into construction equipment and machine tools within the industrial sector would make it possible to share techniques used by veteran employees, who possess many years’ experience, with so many other workers. In the consumer electronics domain, there are potential benefits for lifting the safety and operability of products like gas stoves, PCs, games, musical instruments and health appliances.