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The Haptic Bracelets

The Haptic Bracelets were designed and built at the Open University for diverse musical purposes, but they have proved to be rich communication devices, with uses in unexpected areas such as Parkinson’s and Stroke. (“Haptic” refers to communication through the sense of touch.)

What are the Haptic Bracelets?

The Haptic Bracelets are prototype self-contained lightweight wireless bracelets for
wrists and ankles. They contain tiny computers, accelerometers and vibrotactiles (like phone vibrators but crisper and more precise).

Ideally four are worn at once - i.e. on wrist and ankles - though wrists alone work well. There are many applications for solo users, but the bracelets become particularly interesting with two or more people.
The vibrotactiles are virtually instantaneous (they can be felt in 6 milliseconds), allowing interesting uses e.g. in musical synchronisation.

The bracelets can work by themselves, in networked synchronised groups, or with smart phones, tablets or computers.
one haptic bracelet.jpgFour Haptic Bracelets.jpg

The Haptic Bracelets - some uses

Musical applications include the "Haptic iPod", live or recorded drum tuition, and silent live co-ordination between musicians.
Applications in gait rehabilitation for stroke include haptic cueing, flexible pacing and hair monitoring.
There other applications for deaf musicians, group synchronisation in sports, games, dance and disability empowerment.

Distinctive affordances

  • Any number from one to four may be usefully worn – with a pair on ankles or wrists having a rich range of uses.
  • The Haptic Bracelets are interactive devices for both input and output, enabling communication, processing, analysis and logging.
  • Haptic Bracelets can be used for local or remote tactile communication between two or more wearers.

What are the Haptic Bracelets good for?

The Haptic Bracelets were designed for musical purposes, but we are collaborating with researchers, practitioners, varied user groups and individuals to develop a range of new applications for everyday use, navigation, musicians, stroke victims, Parkinson’s sufferers, dancers, the movement impaired, the hearing impaired and other focuses of use.
drums.jpghaptic bass.jpg

Useful technical features

  • The Haptic Bracelets have powerful and expressive vibrotactiles, allowing a wide dynamic range to be communicated and perceived, even on ankles.
  • The Haptic Bracelets have effectively zero perceptual latency (e.g. useful in real-time musical applications).
  • The Haptic Bracelets have very fast tap detect.
  • The Haptic Bracelets have excellent data logging for accelerometer and other data, and have good real-time data analysis capabilities.
Fashionable leg.jpg
  • The Haptic Bracelets use high bandwidth wi-fi for highly responsive communication.

Pilot studies

We currently have multiple units implemented, and are carrying out pilot studies and with a variety of user groups. In particular, in collaboration with the Sensory Motor Neuroscience Research Centre at Birmingham University, an initial pilot was carried out in June 2013 at the Worcester Motion Capture facility with a stroke survivor volunteer to investigate the use of the haptic bracelets for haptic cueing for purposes of gait rehabilitation. A single pilot does not have clinic significance, but both the subjective views of the volunteer and the analysis of the motion capture data from the pilot on the effects of the haptic bracelets were promising. The volunteer stroke survivor commented
  • "I must say its makes you stand up straighter"
  • "When I stand up straight my hips move better and I walk more smoothly and its easier."
  • " this helps me to walk in time. It’s just sort of having an even pace … which helps me stand up straight and walk properly."

Preliminary analysis of the motion capture data suggested better range of movement with the bracelets and increased flexion at the knee., supporting the subjective views. We are currently planning future studies with the aim of investigating clinical significance.
Four peoples legs.jpg

History of the Haptic Bracelets

The Haptic Bracelets emerged iteratively from experimentation with two generations of a previous project, the Haptic Drum Kit (which was wired as opposed to wireless). Across the two projects, earlier prototypes have used a variety of vibrotactiles: starting with mobile-telephone vibrotactiles, followed by wired and then wireless US Air Force-style tactors, then a variety of more powerful vibrotactiles.The vibrotactiles in the current Haptic Bracelets give a wide dynamic range and effectively zero perceptual latency. Original applications were principally musical. Now we are piloting a wide range of applications for communication, group co-ordination, therapy, navigation, dance, and applications for sensory or motor impaired users.
male leg.jpg

Wireless Prototypes

The current wireless Haptic Bracelets are in their third generation: arduino-based, then breadboard-based, now PCB based. The Haptic Bracelets are in-house designed and fabricated. The housing is in-house designed and 3d printed. Robot-assembly of micro miniature components was the only step carried out outside the university.

Outside Boots.jpg


The wireless Haptic Bracelets in their current form are recent, so publications about the current version are still in preparation. However, there are publications about earlier versions of this work and about work that has informed the design.

Holland, S., Bouwer, A., Dalgleish, M., & Hurtig, T. (2010). Feeling the Beat where it counts: Fostering Multi-limb Rhythm Skills with the Haptic Drum Kit. In Proceedings of TEI 2010 Pages 21-28. ACM New York NY USA. ISBN: 978-1-60558-841-4. DOI 10.1145/1709886.1709892. Oro ID 18900
The Haptic Drum Kit was the precursor of the Haptic Bracelets.

Bouwer, Anders; Holland, Simon and Dalgleish, Mat (2013). The Haptic Bracelets: learning multi-limb rhythm skills from haptic stimuli while reading. In: Holland, Simon; Wilkie, Katie; Mulholland, Paul and Seago, Allan eds. Music and Human-Computer Interaction. Springer Cultural Computing Series. London: Springer.
This paper reports results based on the older, wired, Haptic Drum Kit technology, but details design considerations for the current generation of wireless Haptic Bracelets

Holland, Simon; Wilkie, Katie; Mulholland, Paul and Seago, Allan (2013). Music interaction: understanding music and human-computer interaction. In: Holland, Simon; Wilkie, Katie; Mulholland, Paul and Seago, Allan eds. Music and Human-Computer Interaction. Springer Cultural Computing Series, London: Springer,
This paper contains a useful overview of music interaction (i.e human computer interaction in musical contexts).

Music and Human Computer Interaction (2013) Editors Simon Holland, Katie Wilkie, Paul Mulholland and Allan Seago. Cultural Computing Series, Springer Verlag, London. ISBN 978-1-4471-2989-9.
This edited book contains various papers that provide useful background for musical applications of the Haptic Bracelets.

Holland,S., Wilkie,K., Bouwer, A., Dalgleish.M and Mulholland,P. (2011) Whole Body Interaction in Abstract Domains, In England, D. (Ed.) Whole Body Interaction. Human–Computer Interaction Series, Springer Verlag, London. ISBN 978-0-85729-432-6
This is about the whole body interaction design a different musical application, but whole body interaction design approach has provided useful insights in the present research.

Vassilis Angelis, Simon Holland, Martin Clayton and Paul J. Upton. (2013) Testing a computational model of rhythm perception using polyrhythmic stimuli. Journal of New Music Research. Volume 42 Issue 1 March 2013.
The neural resonance model model of rhythm perception has provided useful insights in the design of the Haptic Bracelets

Bird, J., Holland, S., Marshall, P., Rogers, Y. and Clark, A. (2008) Feel the Force: Using Tactile Technologies to Investigate the Extended Mind. In Proceedings of Devices that Alter Perception Workshop (DAP 08), pp. 1-4 (winner of best paper award).
An early paper from the E-Sense Project, that provided useful insights on sensory motor contingency to the Haptic Bracelets Project


Research team: Simon Holland, Oliver Hodl, Thomas Crevoisier, Maxime Canelli, Mat Dalgleish, Anders Bouwer, and Topi Hurtig, assisted by Rosa Fox.
Arduino and breadboard prototype designs: Maxime Canelli and Simon Holland
PCB prototype hardware design and fabrication: Robert Seaton and Ian Cameron,
RF antenna design: Fraser Robertson
3D-printing design and fabrication: Charles Snelling.
Strap design and fabrication: Caroline Holland
Project conception and direction: Simon Holland