Feeling your internet connection with Neosensory

Over the last year, working from home has become the norm for many office workers. Zoom calls, Slack messages, and live streams have replaced face-to-face meetings and conversations at the water cooler. This new way of working has also tested the bandwidth (and patience) of many home-office workers, who have come to realize how unpredictable internet connections can be.

A group of contestants in Neosenosory’s second developers contest wanted to make your normally intangible internet connection tangible: HapPing lets users feel the status and stability of their network connection. The project was developed by team PoutineNerds, made up of Pascal Fortin, Antoine Weill-Duflos, Yongjae Too, Jeffrey R. Blum, and Mauricio Fontana de Vargas.

“HapPing provides reassurance that everything is fine, but starts feeling different when things start going wrong with the connection. For example, it can tell you when things are broken so that you don’t continue talking during a presentation even though you aren’t getting through,” the team writes.

The set-up

HapPing utilizes Neosensory Buzz, a haptic-feedback wristband with four vibrating motors. In addition to Buzz, all that is needed is an Android smartphone and two apps. The Neosensory app allows users to pair their band with their phone, while the HapPing application detects the status of the network.

When users download the HapPing application to their smartphone and connect Buzz to it, the four motors will send information about the network connection via vibrational patterns. Users can choose from four operation modes that offer different levels of detail.

“All operation modes rely on the concept of a haptic ping. A haptic ping is analogous to a traditional networking ping and travels along the Neosensory Buzz’s actuators, simulating the ping packets traveling across a computer network,” the group writes. “This intuitive direct mapping facilitates the troubleshooting process of network issues and turns a networking fault into a highly perceptually distinctive effect to make the problem easy to address.”

The modes

Team PoutineNerds recommends starting with operation mode Bounded Sweep. In this mode, when no issues are present, users will feel vibrations sweeping from the motor on one end all the way to the motor on the other end and back. If there are problems with the router, vibrations will start at the motor on one end, move to the motor next to it, then stop. In the case of problems with the internet service provider (ISP), vibrations begin at one end, sweep to the two motors next to it, then stop.

The vibrational pattern signaling everything is working in the Fast and Sweep mode.

The other three modes offer varying degrees of information. For example, Adaptive Bounded Sweep gives the same information as Bounded Sweep, but the strength of the vibrations corresponds to the WIFI signal strength. Fast and Sweep mode presents the same vibrational pattern as Bounded Sweep when the connection is working, but simply stops all vibrations when any kind of issue is detected. Sweep and Notify lets users choose between simple and dynamic vibrational patterns.

In order to make recognizing the vibrational patterns more intuitive, a training mode lets users choose from settings such as “Poor WIFI” or “Connection to router lost” and practice what these statuses feel like.

Next steps

HapPing is already a fully usable device, but Team PoutineNerds foresees users will be able to catch network issues before there’s an issue at all.

“With ongoing use, we expect that HapPing can even give you hints of where problems are developing, and what part of the connection is causing issues, letting you investigate before you fully drop off,” the team writes.

To learn more about setting up HapPing yourself, visit the group’s contest page.