Hapkit (hapkit.stanford.edu) is an open-hardware haptic device designed to be very low-cost and easy to assemble. Hapkit allows users to input motions and feel programmed forces in one degree of freedom. This enables interactive simulation of virtual environments that represent realistic physics (such as springs and dampers) and creative new touch sensations (like textures and buttons). The Hapkit can be assembled using household tools, costs less than $50 for all components, including the microcontroller board, and is easily set up and programmed by novices.
The Hapkit is a version of the Haptic Paddle, which was originally designed in Prof. Mark Cutkosky’slaboratory at Stanford University in the mid-1990s. The Haptic Paddle was used as an educational device that students could assemble and program to learn about dynamic systems. The Haptic Paddle concept proved useful in both research and teaching, and a number of haptics research labs have developed their own versions of the device.
Prof. Allison Okamura previously worked with the original Haptic Paddle as a graduate student at Stanford and used a similar version in classes at Johns Hopkins University. After joining the Stanford Mechanical Engineering faculty in 2011, Allison updated the design to use an Arduino as the Haptic Paddle microcontroller, which greatly reduced costs and allowed students to use their laptops for programming the device.
In 2012, Allison Okamura began to collaborate with Prof. Paulo Blikstein in the School of Education to explore new educational applications of haptics. They decided to implement the Haptic Paddles for large educational projects, such outreach programs and a new online course on haptics. It was clear that existing Haptic Paddle designs would need to be revised in order to allow non-haptics experts to assemble and use the device with no supervision. The Haptic Paddle has gone through a number of iterations, moving from a laser-cut design to a 3d-printed one. The 3D-printed Hapkit has fewer parts, uses a much less expensive motor, and has been more recently vetted.
We hope that Hapkit will do for haptics what inexpensive robotics kits have done for the field of robotics. What will happen when this technology gets in the hands of a larger group of innovators and makers? We envision new pathways that the Hapkit will open to learning difficult concepts in math, physics, and other disciplines.
We piloted Hapkit in Fall 2013 in a Stanford Introductory Seminar called ME 20N: Haptics: Engineering Touch. We simultaneously offered a massive open online course (MOOC) called Introduction to Haptics that, to date, has been taken by thousands of students. The MOOC is ongoing and open to anyone. Current work strives to understand how integrating hands-on activities into a MOOC changes the students’ experience.