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Immersion and Google want you to feel your mobile games

Immersion, a longtime leader of haptics and force-feedback technology, has announced Games You Can Feel, a new initiative to help developers integrate haptic feedback into their mobile gaming experiences. The company has already worked with mobile game developers such as Rovio, Ubisoft, and HandyGames to infuse their games with new, sensory experiences. Google has launched a new section of its Play store for Games You Can Feel to highlight games featuring Immersion’s advanced haptic technologies.

“We’re really at a tipping point when it comes to haptics and how it’s being utilized in the mobile space,” Immersion’s head of mobile gaming Nick Thomas told me when we spoke on the phone last week. “Developers are hungry for something new, some new way to innovate. Haptics are a refreshing opportunity for game designers to do something brand new.”

“Haptic,” of course, refers to the sense of touch. Immersion has innovated in touch feedback since it was founded in 1993, developing the technology that gamers know best as rumble feedback in gamepads. Immersion’s new focus is a technology suite for mobile developers called TouchSense Engage. While traditionally less consuming than console or PC games, mobile games can utilize touch feedback to become substantially more immersive than when they simply engage your sense of sight and hearing.

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Immersion provides developers with a growing collection of haptic effects and events that can be easily dropped in to enhance games, and also works with them to develop new effects specific to the games’ needs. Historically, Immersion has worked closely with hardware manufacturers, but this initiative is the company’s first foray into working directly with game developers to help them get the most out of Immersion’s technology. For instance, in Rovio’s Angry Birds Friends, Immersion’s TouchSense tech lets you feel the tension increase as the band stretches back, and the impact and collapse when your birds careen into the targeted structures. In Ubisoft’s Trials Frontier, a motorcycle racing game, you can feel the engine revving, or the impact after landing a jump.

You can put to rest concerns about unnecessary strain on your smartphone’s already over-taxed battery, because Immersion’s TouchSense is actually remarkably efficient in that regard. It’s not a binary, on/off type effect, but rather a whole spectrum of sensory cues, ranging from overt, rumble-style hits to subtler effects that players in testing have had trouble even noticing until they were removed. As a result, TouchSense generally consumes about as much battery life as simply using the device’s speakers.

At launch today the Games You Can Feel list features fifteen games from a variety of developers, both major and independent, and across a range of genres. More will be added as more developers embrace the possibilities afforded by Immersion’s technology.