Haptics: How Technologies of Touch Create Emotional Immersion

Stimulating emotions with tactile feedback technology…

Wearing your heart on your sleeve was once a simple turn of phrase, but now that scientists have expanded on the original haptics jacket it’s becoming a technological goal.

Haptics is an area of tactile feedback technology. It applies force feedback, vibrations and motions to the user, exploiting the sensitive human sense of touch. Haptics jackets are wearable versions of this technology, and they apply the tactile feedback to key areas of the body to emulate our experiences of certain emotions. There’s been renewed interest in this technology recently.

For example the Philips haptic jacket, designed to immerse a movie-viewer in the emotions on screen, will create tension in the limbs to mimic anxiety, or cause a shiver up the spine to mimic fear.

Or the iFeel_IM! (“I feel therefore I am”) haptics harness, created by Dzmitry Tsetserukou, an assistant professor at Toyohashi University of Technology in Japan, with the hope of bringing emotion to cyberspace.

“We are steeped in computer-mediated communication — SMS, e-mail, Twitter, Instant Messaging, 3-D virtual worlds — but many people don’t connect emotionally,” he said in an interview.”I am looking to create a deep immersive experience, not just a vibration in your shirt triggered by an SMS. Emotion is what give communication life.”

Strangely, despite designing his jacket for networks like Second Life, Tsetserukou opted not to include sex-related functionality, saying it would interfere with his focus on emotion.

I tend to think that including functions for arousal would amplify the potential of emotion investment and connection. What do you think?

Image source: PhysOrg.com