Monday, April 27, 2015

Prototype Haptic Interfaces Allow Touch Communication Between People

Touch-based interfaces are a modality the MIT Media Lab is working on. Haptics, the science of touch, derives from the Greek haptikos meaning “being able to come into contact with.” At MIT, the Tangible Media Group is researching and working on new materials for human-computer interfaces. Some change shape and rigidity based on digital inputs.

Some of the upsides of haptic interfaces is that they are very fast to read, they can be put into everyday objects or motions, and our sense of touch since it is the best way to express human emotion. MIT has made a Lumi Touch, which is a picture frame that sends a colored glow to the person who has the other picture frame, when you squeeze each side of the frame. Each color can have different meanings for whatever color-mapping you and your significant other create. Proverbial Wallets works with Bank of America, to make your ordinary leather wallet harder to open as you exceed your monthly budget. These are just 2 examples of their prototypes, but haptic interfaces will soon be for sale to everyone.

Smartstones are a more personal haptic interface, that looks like a smooth, palm-sized, river stone. It allows you and your significant other to communicate through gesture, touch, light, and sound. They're designed for any type of intimate relationship, say it be best friends, parent to child, elderly parents, or even caregivers. Our touch communication is designed for us to process information quickly, it allows us to talk without typing or speaking.

In a classic perceptual psychology experiment, pairs of strangers were tested on communicating emotions through touch alone. One person from a pair was given one of 12 emotions, therefore when the decoder would be touched on the forearm, they'd have to tell you what emotion they thought their partner was trying to communicate. Some examples of how emotions were expressed; fear was associated with trembling, sympathy was associated with stroking and patting, disgust was associated with a pushing motion, and anger was associated with hitting and squeezing. The outcome of the experiment showed that people could interpret fear, disgust, anger, love, sympathy, and gratitude at above-chance levels.

Just a simple touch of hands between my boyfriend and I, can send emotions or communication between us. Our skin processes subconsciously. Smartstones have the potential to give off the same messages at a distance, decreasing social isolation and lets not forget, being a slave to your smartphone.

Photo Credit: TechCrunch
MIT products are great examples of the mass improvement from smartphone apps to haptic interface objects. Human-computer interfaces have improved with anywhere from WiFi-connected thermostats and mirrors, to bluetooth jewelry and light bulbs. What's having every product company consider a cloud-connected product is the falling cost of microchips, WiFi being available just about anywhere, and the continuous income from converting objects into services.

Nowadays, most commonly used for logging or visualizing data is social media. Smartstones is the next step up in communicating at a more personal and close level of non-verbal communication. As touch interfaces develop, they will provide us with more sense of a safer, closer, nonverbal communication from a distance, with a speedy and effective outcome.

Content originally published here

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