how can touch be integrated into technology to express emotion?

With technology advancing daily, for many of us, our devices are well embedded in our everyday lives, yet the way we actually interact with them has not been fully explored. For instance, how can we take a very human, emotional interaction and apply it to technology? This premise forms the basis of a paper released recently by Dr Marianna Obrist from Informatics at the University of Sussex entitled ‘Emotions mediated through mid-air haptics’.

Touch is a powerful vehicle for communication between humans. The way we touch (how) embraces and mediates certain emotions such as anger, joy, fear, or love. While this phenomenon is well explored for human interaction, HCI (Human Computer Interaction) research is only starting to uncover the fine granularity of sensory stimulation and responses in relation to certain emotions.

Within the paper, Dr Marianna Obrist from Sussex, along with colleagues from the Universities of Bristol, Birmingham and specialist Industry partners presented the findings from a recent study exploring the communication of emotions through a haptic system that uses tactile stimulation in mid-air.

Here, haptic descriptions for specific emotions (e.g., happy, sad, excited, afraid) were created by one group of users to then be reviewed and validated by two other groups of users. The study demonstrated the non-arbitrary mapping between emotions and haptic descriptions across three groups. This pointed to the huge potential for mediating emotions through mid-air haptics. The paper also discusses specific design implications based on the spatial, directional, and haptic parameters of the created haptic descriptions – illustrating their design potential for Human Computer Interaction…


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