Feeling the Future—Haptic Audio: Editorial



John Sullivan

Download available


Justin Paterson, Marcelo M. Wanderley

Publication or Conference Title:



This Special Issue in Arts aligns with the journal’s established theme of ‘Music and the Machine’. It is concerned with haptics—the transmission and understanding of touch and force-related information—and its application to music and audio.
Haptics increasingly pervades our interaction with technology; the vibrating phone is a simple everyday experience for billions of people. However, increasingly sophisticated haptic applications are developing in numerous industries, from autonomous cars to surgical simulation, wearables to wellbeing, and in creative sectors such as gaming and fashion.
It is well understood that the sense of touch is crucial to any musician—the string sliding under the finger, the vibration of the embouchure, the key hitting its end-stop. Yet, these qualities often remain elusive in the contemporaneous generation of (often electronic) new musical instruments and controllers, and this often compromises the human body’s ability to exert control upon them, foster experiential performative memory and develop increasing mastery.
The era of working and playing in some form of extended reality is in its naissance, yet it is coming in more ways than we can yet typically imagine. Music performance is just one area that will increasingly explore this medium, and it is haptics that will not just bring an increased sense of realism, but also offer an essential modality to the transparent and relatively lifeless world of purely visual and audio experiences.
In recent decades, such research has built increasing momentum and has given rise to many novel tactile interfaces and approaches to musicking. Conversely, research on force feedback in musical applications has traditionally suffered from issues such as hardware cost and the lack of community-wide accessibility to software and hardware platforms for prototyping applications. Typically, associated publications often require the quantitative analysis of primary data, formal user testing in controlled conditions, or present mathematical contexts for novel interfaces. Although many of these approaches have proved valuable, the literature tends to be rooted in engineering, technology or computing – thus proving out of reach to many in the creative arts.
The field has yet to demonstrate an amalgamated and compelling case for the actual benefit of haptics to audio and musical applications without employing any such overbearing mathematics or statistics. Accordingly, presenting this case to the artistic community represents the scope of this Special Issue: ‘Feeling the Future—Haptic Audio’. It offers a variety of reviews, case studies, insights, and explorations by a team of world experts.
We believe it is time to discuss future opportunities more openly, to propose directions in which this field can blossom, and eventually precipitate more ubiquitous tools for audio and music interaction.

Publication Details:

Journal Paper

IDMIL Participants: