Nokia has obtained a worldwide licence for the use of Immersion's VibeTonz feedback technology, bringing interaction-through-vibration to Nokia handsets.
The field of buzzing interfaces, known as "haptics", is based around recreating the vibrational pattern of pushing a button, or sliding a control, then recreating that pattern using the actuator in the handset.
Immersion has been doing this since 1993, and has hundreds of patents in the field. The technology has been used in Las Vegas slot machines, and those in mobile phones have been about adding vibrations to music tracks.
One of the most serious barriers to haptics has been the lack of a standard API (Application Programmers Interface), and it's notable that this deal includes Immersion providing such an API to Forum Nokia members.
In theory, the Immersion technology could be a software upgrade to handsets, as it uses the already-fitted actuator, but it may be that current Nokia devices have insufficient control over their vibration functions.
Nokia's N95 already features the reassuring buzz when switched on, as seen in Sony Ericsson handsets before, but this deal should spread vibrations to other applications and perhaps give Nokia a way to out-gimmick the iPhone. ®