Innovation: It’s All in the Software

Engineers work on a daily basis to translate ideas into real-world innovations and while in many circumstances the world sees hardware as the “new thing,” in many circumstances today the real innovation is all about the software.

Innovation is all about creating something new that is useful to individuals or companies. Innovation requires taking ideas, information, and resources to get a result which is something that has never been seen before. Sometimes innovations are continuous which means they are just improvements upon existing technologies. At other times, innovation can be disruptive and result in something completely unexpected. Engineers work on a daily basis to translate ideas into real-world innovations and while in many circumstances the world sees hardware as the “new thing,” in many circumstances today the real innovation is all about the software.

ultrahapics, ultrasonic, hardware, innovation, tactile feedbackHardware is exciting. Individuals can see hardware, touch it, weigh it, and get a good sense for what it is. The same hardware can be reconfigured and manipulated to provide different solutions in disparate industries. In many circumstances, though the hardware is quite limited. First, designers have to configure that hardware in a predefined configuration in order for it to do something useful. Secondly, there are limits to how quickly and how many units can be physically manufactured. Finally, most hardware today isn’t standalone but requires software to drive its behavior.

A great example on how critical software innovation is compared to hardware innovation (keep in mind this is the perspective from the software guy and a bit overreaching as a statement) can be seen in a tactile feedback solution for touchless interfaces created by Ultrahaptics. Now if that statement sounds strange at first, it’s because it should! The concept is that there is a 3D gesture sensor that a user can interact with, but without any feedback it can be difficult to get a feel for what is happening. The Ultrahaptics solution uses ultrasonic waves at different frequencies to generate a tactile sensation in the user so that it feels like they are interacting with a physical component.

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The reason that the Ultrahaptics solution is such a great example for software innovation is that the innovation is really all in the software. The hardware for the ultrasonic transducers is nothing more than a common Murata component that is used in supermarket automated doors. A common hardware sensor was taken and then algorithms designed to create constructing and deconstructing ultrasonic waves that generate tactile feeling. The hardware is so common and non-innovative that Ultrahaptics provides the hardware reference designs. There is nothing special with the hardware.

The software, on the other hand, is where all the innovation is. In the demonstration unit shown in the picture above, the algorithms must take in distance information for each finger along with the finger


You lack of vision and understanding of what is real product development. You mentioned Raspberry, Beagle bone... they are all for hobbyist... or prototype development. Anybody that put products in production and support those products know that you missed some important things... it seems to be a tangent from consultant. It's not because many innovations are possible in software that no innovation is done in hardware.

This is an amusing piece, as the same sort of arguments could be written by a hardware engineer who knows nothing about software. How useful would your ultrasonic feedback software be absent that "common hardware sensor." Sorry, but the components and systems you dismiss as common and non-innovative are the products of innovation that are so disruptive that they continues to provide the technological underpinning of coders like yourself for years to come. Stop building silos.

Haptics is a nice add-on, but there is not much wrong with that good old "beep" when an input is accepted. So the wonderful process of using the ultrasonics is just a fancy gimmick that adds a lot of complexity to the code. Yes, I know that it might reduce hardware costs a bit by avoiding the need for a separate haptic excitation channel, but it certainly must add a lot to the software, creating more locations for unseen errors that will only be discovered by the customers.

LOL, a software consultant writes that only software is innovative and hardware is merely common and limited? With an attitude like that you better grab all the money you can before your clients see through you and terminate their relationships. Your software is limited by the capabilities of the hardware it interacts with. It's a two-way street, son.

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