Social Touch Technology: reaching each other beyond the screen

The human sense of touch is an important channel through which people obtain information about the world around them. However, the sense of touch also serves an important social and affective function. This is most apparent in the ways that people touch each other as a form of greeting, as a way to express comfort, or to show support or love.

The uses of the sense of touch for social interactions between humans are varied and may actually have a neurophysiological basis. Human beings, like other mammals, have a biological need for social touch that underlines its importance, and being touched by another person can affect people in a number of different ways.

Yet much of our day-to-day communication with others occurs mediated through technology and the technology itself, as evidenced by voice assistants such as Siri and Alexa and social robots like Pepper, is also becoming increasingly more humanlike. Therefore, there are many opportunities for haptic technology - technology that addresses the sense of touch - to play a role in the way that people communicate with each other remotely and the way that people communicate with socially intelligent computers.

Dr. Gijs Huisman

Gijs Huisman is a postdoctoral researcher at the Human Media Interaction group of the University of Twente. His research focusses on investigating the use of haptic technology for social and affective communication. He is one of the creators of the Tactile Sleeve for Social Touch (TaSST), a wearable sleeve that allows two people to touch each other at a distance. He is also the head of R&D at House of Haptics and is working on the development of HEY bracelet, a wearable for social touch at a distance (heybracelet.com). He received a cum laude Master's degree in Communication Science and a doctoral degree at the University of Twente.