What is the Nintendo Switch's Haptic Feedback/ HD Rumble?

If you know about Nintendo Switch, you probably know it’s a new console you can take on the go or play on the big screen via its TV dock.

But this new home/handheld hybrid has another trick up its sleeve – namely a new kind of vibration feedback called ‘HD Rumble’, which is based on technologies known as haptic feedback.

So, what is haptic feedback and how will it make Switch games better? Let’s find out.

What Is Haptic Feedback?

The term haptic feedback actually refers to any kind of vibration or rumble feedback. That includes vibrating steering wheels in arcade machines, and the standard vibration in PlayStation, Xbox and Wii U controllers.

More recently though, ‘haptic feedback’ has been used to describe a more advanced kind of vibration – one that simulates the feel of different materials and movements.

So, for example, advanced haptic feedback can give you the sense of:

  • The touch of different materials such as cloth or stone or glass
  • The movement of virtual objects, such as marbles rolling around a box
  • The feel of movement over a smooth or bumpy road

As well as the Nintendo Switch, these kinds of advanced haptics are already in newer devices like Valve’s Steam Controller. Xbox One’s Impulse Triggers, which vibrate independently, are another example.

Lots of different components can combine to make haptic feedback work, including actuators, tactile sensors, and electrostatic technology.

Nintendo Switch: Controller and Touchscreen Haptics

Nintendo Switch cow milking game

The Nintendo Switch’s haptic feedback – called HD Rumble – is arguably the most advanced of its type seen in any game console.

With Switch, you actually get two kinds of haptic feedback – one in the Joy-Con controllers, and another in the touchscreen.

The system’s Joy-Cons are a bit like an evolution of the Wii Remote and Nunchuck. Like those older controllers, they feature motion control and you hold one piece in each hand. However, the new HD Rumble haptics inside the Joy-Cons make new gameplay possible, as we’re about to see.

What Kind of Gameplay Is Possible with Joy-Con HD Rumble?

The best example of what HD Rumble can do at launch is a party game collection called 1-2-Switch.

Its games use HD Rumble in some amazing and bizarre ways:

  • In Ball Count, you imagine the Joy-Con as a box. As you move it, you can feel marbles rolling around inside with enough precision to count how many there are
  • In Milk, the Joy-Con feels like a cow’s udder that you squeeze to draw out milk
  • In Safe Crack, you turn the Joy-Con like a dial and can feel each part of the lock clicking as you crack the safe

Watch the Nintendo Treehouse demonstration of 1-2-Switch:

What About the Switch’s Touchscreen Haptic Feedback?

Nintendo Switch also has a capacitive (i.e. a smartphone-style) touchscreen, with a difference – it includes Immersion Corporation’s TouchSense haptic force feedback technology.

Overview of Nintendo Switch's Haptic TouchSense

The touchscreen wasn’t demonstrated much before launch, but TouchSense essentially adds force-feedback to the console's screen when in handheld mode. So in a driving game, for example, you can feel collisions and engine roars when playing with touch controls.

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