M3: An Interactive Haptic Device for Kinesthetic Learners

Project team member(s): Wisit Jirattigalachote

M3: An Interactive Haptic Device

In this project, we are interested in designing and building a simple and low-cost interactive haptic device that can capture some body motion and display haptic feedback accordingly. The main purpose of the device is to engage students, especially kinesthetic learners, to be more active and involved in the learning process. In the end, we successfully built the M3 wristband system where teachers and students can relate their movements to typical learning material. We also demonstrated an example of how the system can be used in a typical classroom setup through multiple-choice questions. During the demo day, visiting students mentioned that this type of device could be really helpful for them with the classes with a lot of memorization.


In a typical classroom setup, learning material through a body movement is very minimal. This limits the students' learning ability especially for kinesthetic learners. We want to explore a way that may help improve the current learning process. The main motivation of this project comes from an icebreaker game where each player introduces his/her name to other players, accompanying by a distinct body movement for others to mimic. This game leads to the players being able to remember each other names more easily and quickly. In a similar situation, we would like to apply the same principle to learning material in a classroom. We would like it to be more fun, interactive, and most of all, easy to remember. For example, one use case scenario would be in a geography class where students can choose different movements to relate to different continents, then once the teacher asking what country is in what continent, the student can simply move their arm in different combinations to answer. If the answer is correct, the device can provide a haptic pulse feedback. If the answer is incorrect, the device can give a different kind of pulse feedback or no feedback. The use of inertial sensors and small vibrotactile feedback allow the cost to be low and with large volume, potentially unlimited, of captured motion.


According to [1], there are typically four types of learners: visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic (VARK). Kinesthetic learners are only accounted for approximately 10% of the population. However, there are studies suggesting that learning through multiple modalities can help increase the learning and retention rate [2, 3]. In addition, there was a research study showed that the first-year medical students with diverse backgrounds and learning styles prefer multiple learning styles [4]. This suggests by providing the students with multiple forms of learning can help larger number of students improve their learning rate.

In this project, we chose to explore the kinesthetic learning style since the normal classroom setup are already full with visual, auditory, and reading/writing components. We chose to create a wristband device due to its easy accessibility for attachment. There are multiple research in creating a wireless vibrotactile feedback device [5, 6]. Some of applications include spatial navigation or motion learning [7, 8]. However, very limited number of vibrotactile feedback device have demonstrated explicit use for educational purpose, especially for normal classroom without too many modifications.


We designed our system with a low budget in mind so it is affordable for a classroom use. The total cost of the hardware was approximately $230 for 3 units. Electronics components were responsible for most of the cost, especially the sensor (~$35 per unit). However, the unit cost can be reduced significantly when large quantity is produced.

Hardware design

There are two types of our device units: a server unit and a client unit. The electrical components for both units are exactly the same, only the look and their functions are different. A server unit is a desktop unit that is connected to the teacher's computer via a USB for visual display and communication with the other client units. The client unit, as seen in Fig. 1, is what the student will be wearing. Each client unit is a wrist band with an M3 unit that consists of motion sensors, four vibrotactors, and a battery that can lasts upto approximately 4 hours with continuous use. The circuit diagram and bill of materials can be found in the Files section. The vibrotactors on the client unit are also outfitted with a custom plastic mold made of Instamorph, as seen in Fig. 2. The mold is a small protruding cylindrical shape for more focused vibrational feedback on the user wrist, especially for the ones with small wrist size or the ones with short distance of two-point discrimination sensation on the wrist. Our design also allows the distance between two vibrotactors to be adjustable by using a velcro tape.

Fig. 1: A complete M3 client unit.

Fig. 2: Customized mold for increased feedback sensation

Software design

The software implemented is based on the Arduino and Processing architecture. There are three main components: the server unit, the client unit, and display unit. Both the server and client unit software are in Arduino language and the display is in Processing. The server unit simply transmits and receives data between the computer and the client unit(s). The client unit is responsible for capturing motion data, transmitting and receiving data to/from the server, and actuating the haptic feedback accordingly. The display unit carries out all the computation and display user information on the screen for the teacher to supervise. The software can be found in the Files section.

Educational demonstration

We created a few use case examples for our M3 device. One of them is multiple-choice question with motion example, as seen in Fig. 3. The teacher can setup a question to be displayed on the screen and create different motions corresponding to each answer for students to perform. When the motion of the correct answer is performed, the student will receive a vibrational feedback. All the questions, motions for answer, and vibrational feedback scheme are easily modifiable for the teacher and students. The possibility is endless. The users can relate different motion with different vibrational feedback schemes as they see fit.

Fig. 3: M3 system setup.

Another use case example is to use the M3 to capture some motion and translate that motion to a 2D drawing on the screen. Another fun example is to perform a blind navigation with haptic feedback. One user can be the navigator and providing the feedback wirelessly through the M3 device's available four vibrotactors, which can simply be mapped for forward, backward, left, and right.


We successfully built an affordable M3 interactive haptic system for use in a normal classroom setup. The system allows the users to relate their body movements to typical classroom material. This opens up many possible applications in various subjects. During the Haptic Open House, most of the audience found this project to be very interesting. They also mentioned that it could be very useful for helping them to memorize some difficult concepts. As seen in Fig. 4, the student was reading the question and about create movement corresponding to his answer to the question.

Fig. 4: A use case scenario where student can perform different motions corresponding to different answer choices.

Future Work

Hardware design

The device is still a bit on the bulky side. The miniaturization of system will be appreciated. This can easily be achieved due to most of the circuits were already designed. The author did not implement a single PCB design due to the high setup cost for low quantity units and lead time that was not suitable to finish the project in time for demonstration.

Software design

Many more applications can be developed for classroom use. For example, a chemical bonds concept application. Each student can be responsible for one type of element. Then, the student can perform different motions corresponding to different types of bond (ionic, metallic, covalent, etc.). When the correct movement (bond) for the correct elements is performed, the user will receive some haptic feedback.


1. Electrical Schematics: Attach:ME327_Wisit_Schematic.pdf
2. Bill of Materials: Attach:ME327_Wisit_BoM.pdf
3. Software


[1] N. Fleming, “I’m different; not dumb. modes of presentation (VARK) in the tertiary classroom,” in Re- search and Development in Higher Education, Proceedings of the 1995 Annual Conference of the Higher Education and Research Development Society of Australasia (HERDSA), HERDSA, vol. 18, 1995, pp. 308–313.
[2] J. Lieberman and C. Breazeal, “TIKL: Development of a wearable vibrotactile feedback suit for improved human motor learning,” Robotics, IEEE Transactions on, vol. 23, no. 5, pp. 919 –926, oct. 2007.
[3] D. Morris, H. Tan, F. Barbagli, T. Chang, and K. Salisbury, “Haptic feedback enhances force skill learn- ing,” in EuroHaptics Conference, 2007 and Symposium on Haptic Interfaces for Virtual Environment and Teleoperator Systems. World Haptics 2007. Second Joint. IEEE, 2007, pp. 21–26.
[4] H. Lujan and S. DiCarlo, “First-year medical students prefer multiple learning styles,” Advances in Physiology Education, vol. 30, no. 1, pp. 13–16, 2006.
[5] S. Schatzle, T. Ende, T. W andsthoff, and C. Preusche, “Vibrotac: An ergonomic and versatile usable vibrotactile feedback device,” in RO-MAN, 2010 IEEE, sept. 2010, pp. 670 –675.
[6] R. Lindeman, J. Sibert, C. Lathan, and J. Vice, “The design and deployment of a wearable vibrotactile feedback system,” in Wearable Computers, 2004. ISWC 2004. Eighth International Symposium on, vol. 1. IEEE, 2004, pp. 56–59.
[7] B. Weber, S. Schatzle, T. Hulin, C. Preusche, and B. Deml, “Evaluation of a vibrotactile feedback device for spatial guidance,” in World Haptics Conference (WHC), 2011 IEEE, june 2011, pp. 349 –354.
[8] K. Bark, P. Khanna, R. Irwin, P. Kapur, S. Jax, L. Buxbaum, and K. Kuchenbecker, “Lessons in using vibrotactile feedback to guide fast arm motions,” in World Haptics Conference (WHC), 2011 IEEE, june 2011, pp. 355 –360.

Appendix: Project Checkpoints

Checkpoint 1


1. Order electronics parts - Complete

- All of the electronics parts (sufficient to build first working prototype) were ordered.

2. Circuit design - Partially done

- Vibrotactile driver circuit is complete
- Power circuit is complete

Note: Parts lists and circuit diagrams available upon request.

Checkpoint 2

Goal: Working prototype that can sense simple motions and provide corresponding feedback

- complete circuit fabrication


- sensing rotation and giving feedback

Checkpoint 3

Goal: Final system, perhaps user testing and iteration
- complete and less funky wrist strap
- vibrotactor casing for an increased and more focused feedback

Next Step:

- enclosure for the circuit
- though some testing has been done on the system but still yet to be completed