David Walsh Blog

Vibration API

Many of the new APIs provided to us by browser vendors are more targeted toward the mobile user than the desktop user.  One of those simple APIs the Vibration API.  The Vibration API allows developers to direct the device, using JavaScript, to vibrate in a pattern for a given duration.

Detecting Vibration API Support

It’s always good to check for the presence of API support before using it;  here’s how you can detect the Vibration API’s presence:

// Standards ftw!
var supportsVibrate = "vibrate" in navigator;

The Vibration API consists of only one method provided to the window.navigator object:  vibrate.

Vibration API Basics

The navigator.vibrate function accepts either a single number or an array of numbers for a series of vibrations. When using the array method, the even indices represent vibration duration, the odd indices represent a delay before the next vibration.

// Vibrate once for one second

// Vibrate multiple times for multiple durations
// Vibrate for three seconds, wait two seconds, then vibrate for one second
navigator.vibrate([3000, 2000, 1000]);

To stop vibration when active, simply pass a 0 or an empty array to the navigator.vibrate method:

// Either of these stop vibration

Realize that vibrations do not loop until stopped with 0 or an empty array;  the single number vibration occurs once and then becomes silent, the array of vibration durations run and becomes silent again.

Continued Vibration

Some basic setInterval and clearInterval action will allow us you to create persistent vibration:

var vibrateInterval;

// Starts vibration at passed in level
function startVibrate(duration) {

// Stops vibration
function stopVibrate() {
	// Clear interval and stop persistent vibrating 
	if(vibrateInterval) clearInterval(vibrateInterval);

// Start persistent vibration at given duration and interval
// Assumes a number value is given
function startPeristentVibrate(duration, interval) {
	vibrateInterval = setInterval(function() {
	}, interval);

Of course the snippet above doesn’t take into account the array method of vibration;  persistent array-based vibration will require calculating the sum of the array items and creating an interval based on that number (with an additional delay, probably).

Why Use the Vibration API?

This API is clearly targeted toward mobile devices.  The Vibration API would be good for alerts within mobile web applications, and would be especially awesome when used in games or media-heavy applications.  Imagine watching a video on your mobile device, and during an explosion scene, your phone got a bit of a shake.  Or playing Bomberman and feeling a gentle kick when a block explodes!

What do you think of the Vibration API:  immediately useful or not quite yet?

At the time of writing, Firefox BETA for Android is the only browser which supports the Vibration API. WebKit landed the Vibration API a while back, but in my testing of iOS Chrome and Safari, as well as Android Chrome and standard browser, I could not find a working vibration property. Opera doesn’t appear to support vibration yet either.