Our society is experiencing an increasing lack of social tactile interactions, due in part to increased virtualisation and the growth of digital networks, and recently magnified by social distancing measures. Sadly, many people now feel like the society described in the 1990s science fiction movie Demolition Man, where physical contact was prevented and heavily sanctioned. The increased virtualisation of our social interactions feeds our hunger for touch, the lack of which can lead to profoundly negative consequences. Interpersonal touch grounds social relations between people, with distinct patterns of tactile interaction between parent-infant dyads, adult life-partners, friends, teachers and professional colleagues and acquaintances.
Although touch is vital for how we feel and interact with our environments and is foundational for our emotional well-being, most haptic technologies have focused on functional aspects. All major haptics companies use touch to help users improve task completion, discriminate among shapes or textures, and grasp virtual objects. In contrast, social touch typically involves the stimulation of non-glabrous (hairy) parts of the skin while also affecting nociceptors (pain) and thermoreceptors (temperature). These C-tactile (CT) afferents underpin the experience of affective touch, and the pleasant sensations associated with social interactions such as caresses. Thus, current technology neither satisfy our need for touch, nor draw on recent progress in understanding social touch.
Our ambition is to go beyond functional haptic technology and enable computer systems to intelligently create the experiences lost in the virtual transition. Those experiences include agency, bonding, and attachment.
We will develop the next generation of touchless haptic technologies using neurocognitive models and a novel artificial intelligence (AI) framework. Without having physical contact, users will receive affective, social and cognitive touch sensations.
Fields of science
Call for proposal
See other projects for this call
Funding SchemeRIA - Research and Innovation action
BS2 0EL Bristol
53 612 Wroclaw