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Disciplines in Touch:  Fostering Collaboration between Researchers in the Domain of Affective Haptics

Tuesday September 8th, 9:00h – 10:30h

Marc TeyssierAnthropomorphic Devices for Affective Touch
Sara PriceThe Sociality of Remote Digital Touch Communication
Sima IpakchianContext Matters: The Effect of Textual Tone on the Evaluation of Mediated Social Touch
Daryna KolesnykPISTIS: Persuasion in social touch interactions
Michiel SpapéWinning, losing or staying in touch: Associating affective outcomes with touch modulates face perception.

Social touch is important for human development, social attachment, interpersonal communication, and ultimately well-being. Affective haptic devices have been developed for those circumstances where humans do not have access to social touch (e.g., when geographical separation prevents skin-to-skin contact). Affective haptic devices allow for the communication of emotions, touch acts or social presence through the use of a haptic channel (e.g. warmth, vibration or force). 

Research on and the use of such devices is spread across different disciplines, each with their own research questions and methodologies. Design researchers have focused on the development of the affective haptic device itself, often by taking a human-centered design approach; gaining insights by iteratively exposing users to, and incorporating their feedback in design artifacts. In contrast, psychologists have mainly focused on an individual’s psychological and physiological responses to affective haptic stimuli, attempting to formulate theoretical models of how social touch affects people’s behavior and cognitions or of how the technical parameters of affective haptic devices may affect such human responses. Sociologists, in turn, have aimed at understanding the possible role and impact of affective haptic devices on society, culture and social relationships and identities.  

These disciplines deploy haptic devices as research tools (e.g., a design probe or stimulus generators) as well as objects of study. Stronger interaction and cooperation between these disciplines would aid progress in developing affective haptic devices, and enhance the value that they can bring to people’s lives. This symposium seeks to foster such interdisciplinary collaboration by bringing together researchers from the fields of design, psychology, and sociology to present and discuss research findings in relation to affective haptics. 

The five selected presentations represent a cross section of the state-of-the-art in research on affective haptic devices. The first presentation considers   how anthropomorphic affordances can be used to inform the design of interfaces for affective touch communication. The second explores how people generate and interpret meaningful touch messages using tactile sensations of vibration, pressure and temperature at a distance The third presentation focuses on how different contexts (e.g., the textual tone of an accompanying message) affect the perception and experience of a mediated social touch. The fourth presentation  investigates  how social touch by a virtual agent affects the outcomes of a negotiation between the virtual agent and the user. The fifth and final presentation presentation discusses an EEG study showing that receiving someone’s mediated touch affects how we perceive them, although it does not automatically result in liking or trust. Instead, the subjective significance of touch determines its social-emotional consequences.   

Collectively, the symposium papers will provide a foundation for  a moderated group discussion of different perspectives and research methods in order to identify potential opportunities and challenges for interdisciplinary  collaboration and the enhancement of affective haptic technologies.

Mixed haptic interfaces, experiences and perception studies

Wednesday September 9th, 9:00h – 10:30h

Thomas Montenegro-Johnson The mathematics of skin modelling
Orestis Georgiou Ultrasonic non-contact haptics
Vincent Hayward Tactile Mechanics
Jess Hartcher-O’Brien Perceptual limits and interactions
Claudio Pacchierotti Interaction techniques and applications for mixed haptics

This mini-symposium will host five short talks that present recent results and future challenges originating from a diverse set of research fields that have the potential to unlock the paradigm of an immersive haptic reality. Five excellent speakers coming from both academic and industrial backgrounds will cover topics across the board ranging from the mathematical modelling of the skin, perceptual studies, tactile mechanics relating to mixed (contact and non-contact) haptic interfaces, human computer interaction techniques and their application to augmented and virtual reality scenarios. The aim of this mini-symposium is thus to be both wide in terms of background disciplines and specific to mixed haptic interfaces and will therefore be of interest to the whole Eurohaptics community.

While haptic interfaces and our fundamental understanding of touch have made remarkable progress in recent years, it can be argued that there is no one-size-fits-all solution that addresses the challenges at hand as we make headway towards the immersive haptic reality future vision. This vision of rich touch interactions with 3D objects in augmented, mixed and virtual reality (AR/MR/VR) applications has long been alluded to. Recall Sutherland’s ultimate display (1965) where a computer can “control the existence of matter” in a room, Ishii’s radical atoms vision (2012) that describes human-material interactions with dynamically changing matter, multidimensional interactions enshrined in popular culture such as the Star Trek Holodeck training simulator, and advanced hand-gesture command and control interfaces seen in films such as Minority Report (2002) and Iron Man (2008).

Such embodiments of an immersive haptic reality have the potential to change the way we live, work, learn and leisure. They also resonate with deep psychophysical and philosophical constructs, such as, David Marr’s (1982) organization of perceptual computational tasks, Paul Neagu’s (1969) Palpable Manifesto, and Marshall McLuhan’s (1967) Ratio of the Senses. Together, these advocate that an imbalance of the senses stimulated by media can deprive one of rationality and consciousness, that our eyes and ears are fatigued by todays predominantly visual media from which information and emotion-rich haptic sensations are strikingly absent. Where are we today relative to these visions and philosophies, and how can we attempt to redefine digital content as something that can be touched and felt?

This mini-symposium proposes a fresh and comprehensive approach to the challenges at hand, ranging from mathematical models of wave-propagation in the hand, hardware development, perceptual studies and human-computer interaction techniques that engage mixed haptic interfaces composed of both contact and non-contact devices. The former refers to a new generation of wearable actuators that can generate rich vibrotactile input that provide a wide bandwidth of information. The latter refers to advanced ultrasound mid-air haptic interfaces that can manipulate and focus acoustic pressure to induce microscale skin deformations that can be perceived by the brain as textures or as 3D objects. Through combining non-contact and unobtrusive contact haptic feedback, mixed haptic interfaces can accentuate the benefits of both systems, thus enabling natural interactions with cyber- physical objects in real-space without the need for limiting or cumbersome hardware.