Low-cost Haptic Devices

This section of the site provides information on the designs of various low-cost haptic devices that would be appropriate for use in teaching and learning about haptics, or using haptic devices to enhance the teaching of topics such as physics, system dynamics, or other kinds of interaction phenomena. These devices include “haptic paddles” and other inexpensive haptic device designs, such as haptic knobs, gaming joysticks, and the Novint Falcon.

Haptic Paddles

A Haptic Paddle is a 1 degree-of-freedom (1-DOF) impedance-type haptic force feedback device. All current haptic paddle designs are driven by an electromagnetic actuator such as a DC Motor to create force feedback at the end of a rotating joystick-like handle. Generally these devices are interfaced with an amplifier and a computer running associated control software. A variety of designs have been created and have been used to teach topics such as system dynamics, physics and, of course, haptics. For more information on haptic paddles, please refer to the Haptic Paddles page.

Haptic Knobs

A haptic knob is a 1 degree-of-freedom (1-DOF) haptic interface that can be as simple as a DC Brushed motor with a knob/disk attached to the output shaft of the motor (and driven with an amplifier and controller). Since they are so simple to make, can be used to represent a variety of haptic behaviors and are almost impossible to break or hurt users, they are a nice device to consider for learning about haptics and user interface design. For more information on haptic knobs, please refer to the Haptic Knobs page.

Novint Falcon

The Novint Falcon is a 3 degree-of-freedom parallel linkage haptic force feedback device. It is a smaller, lower cost version of the Omega force feedback device that is sold by Force Dimension that has a workspace of about 4 inches cubed and a force capability of ~10 Newtons. It retails for ~$150-$200 and is therefore a reasonable device to consider using for teaching and learning haptics if you do not have the resources to fabricate and assemble your own low-cost device. It interfaces with a computer via a USB 2.0 interface and all required electronics and amplifiers are self contained in the Falcon’s chassis (except for the supplied wall transformer for power). For more information, see the Novint website.

Force Feedback Gaming Joysticks

There are a variety of 2 degree-of-freedom (2-DOF) force feedback gaming joysticks, such as Microsofts sidewinder force feedback joystick and others by logitec. While these devices provide only limited force capabilities and have a fair amount of backlash, they are quite adequate for providing force feedback for representing physical phenomena studied in courses such as physics or dynamics or illustrating interaction forces experienced by atoms in a molecule. As such, a moderate number of educational haptic demos have been created in the past that utilize these devices. Further information on these devices will be added in the near future, but in the mean time, please refer to Dr. Robert Williams’ Haptics Augmented Science Education pages.

SensAble’s Omni Phantom

The Omni Phantom is a 6 degree-of-freedom (6-DOF) serial linkage haptic force feedback device. It has 3 actuated degrees of freedom that provide force feedback to the end point of the device. The user interacts with the device through a gimbaled stylus interface that is instrumented to measure its 3 rotational degrees-of-freedom. The Omni is a smaller, lower cost version of the Phantom Premium force feedback device that is sold by SensAble Technologies that is commonly used in haptics research labs. The Omni has a smaller workspace and force capability than the Phantom Premium, but is still quite a capable device. It retails for ~$2,200 so it is more expensive than the other devices on this page, but since quite a few people have used the Omnis for teaching haptics and conducting science outreach activities it is also included on this page. Like the falcon, this device is also self contained and a reasonable choice if you do not have a little more budget and lack the resources to fabricate and assemble your own low-cost device. The Omni interfaces with a computer via Firewire. For more information, see SensAble’s website.


Use of vibrotactors (small vibrating devices) are quite common in haptics and HCI research. The main vibrotactor designs typically either involve an eccentric mass on a small motor, as is found in most cell phones, or a moving mass on a voice coil actuator. There are also many other recent developments to try to improve the frequency response of vibrotactors in cell phones and touch screens by using piezoelectric materials or electroactive polymers.

As an example of driving a single vibrotactor or multiple vibrotactors using a Sensoray 626 Card, the following documentation and code files have been provided here (designed and written by Andrew Doxon).


Haptics Literature

Haptics Courses

Haptic Devices

Haptic Demos

Haptics Resources