could Sussex based research bring Elvis back?

Despite passing away nearly 40 years ago, Elvis is as popular as ever, with memorabilia fetching thousands of pounds annually and his music continuing to be re-mixed for new generations of fans. And given that there are over an estimated 200,000 Elvis impersonators globally, for many, the King is certainly not dead. But a new book about Elvis looks at how technological advances being developed at the University of Sussex could bring him back…

‘The Death and Resurrection of Elvis Presley’ by Ted Harrison, which was released in August 2016 tracks the story of Elvis since his passing – the growth of his musical legacy and the many rumours that he is actually still here – albeit working in a corner shop somewhere… But truthfully, a tribute act is likely to be the closest we will get to Elvis now.

And however good they may be, listening and watching an Elvis impersonator is just that – not the real thing. So could it be that sensor technology could give us the next iteration of Elvis – an Elvis mk3 that you could actually interact with – and touch?

Dr Marianna Obrist and her team in the Sussex Computer Human Interaction Lab (SCHI) are working on such technology, where tactile sensations can be felt on a hand through the use of ultrasound, so it could indeed be possible, but this raises more questions. Haptic technology has many applications that we are only beginning to investigate – along with the ethical and moral issues that could come with it.

As Dr Obrist says: ‘…it’s difficult to tell how far away the use Mr Harrison suggests is in the future. Elvis isn’t really what we had in mind when we began this research!’

‘But there are many interesting elements in what Mr Harrison is saying, because last year we looked at how to elicit emotions through tactile communication’

This study showed that human emotions can indeed be transferred through technology, with haptic stimulation on the hands.

So, the resurrection of the King into a tactile virtual reality installation may still be a little while away yet. Keep your eyes on those corner shops…

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