• Luli Faber

Haptic technhology evokes different emotions using tactile stimulation of the hand


There's new research called "haptic technology", that is mapping how different emotions can be evoked by stimulating different parts of the hand with tactile stimulation.

Haptic is from the Greek "haptesthai," meaning to touch. As an adjective, it means relating to or based on the sense of touch. As a noun, usually used in a plural form (haptics), it means the science and physiology of the sense of touch. Scientists have studied haptics for decades, and they know quite a bit about the biology of touch. They know, for example, what kind of receptors are in the skin and how nerves shuttle information back and forth between the central nervous system and the point of contact.

"By experimenting with different shapes, we've studied how this kind of haptic feedback can produce different emotions. We found that short, sharp bursts of air to the area around the thumb, index finger, and middle part of the palm generate excitement. Slow and moderate stimulation of the outer palm and the area around the little finger create sad feelings."

I think that's pretty interesting! They're planning to use this technology to make more interactive TV, which isn't such as interesting application in my view. I think it could be used to expose and help us release negative emotions in our soul, that create our pain and suffering.

Here's an excerpt from an article about using haptic technology as part of interactive TV (see http://www.sciencealert.com/the-future-of-tv-how-feely-vision-could-tickle-all-our-senses):

Our latest work focuses on cutting edge technology such as the mid-air touch feedback or 'haptic' device developed by Ultrahaptics, a start-up in Bristol. We're looking at how this technology could evoke emotions in the audience by allowing them to feel physical sensations without touching actual objects.

For example, projecting a pattern of ultrasound beams onto your hand can create different tactile sensations, such as a feeling of raindrops on your palm (without the water), or a flow of air as if you were holding your hand out of the window of a moving car. When carefully designed, this haptic feedback can produce even more specific patterns that allow you to feel different shapes, that change in size or that quickly move around.

Emotional feedback

By experimenting with different shapes, we've studied how this kind of haptic feedback can produce different emotions. We found that short, sharp bursts of air to the area around the thumb, index finger, and middle part of the palm generate excitement. Slow and moderate stimulation of the outer palm and the area around the little finger create sad feelings.

This gives us a starting point to find out how mid-air touch sensations could be meaningfully integrated into other experiences, such as watching a movie. One challenge will be to make haptic feedback enhance the viewing experience without seeming intrusive or creepy, as suggested by 'the feelies' cinema experience portrayed in the dystopian novel Brave New World.

We've recently began a five-year project to expand the research into taste and smell, as well as touch. The SenseX project will aim to provide guidelines and tools on how to design and integrate sensory stimuli for inventors and innovators to create richer interactive experiences. Relatively soon, we may be able to realise truly compelling and multi-faceted media experiences, such as 9-dimensional TV (adding tastes on top of 4DX), that evoke emotions through all our senses.

Marianna Obrist, reader in interaction design, University of Sussex.


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