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Ultrahaptics can transfer human emotions to your palm through air

20 April 2015

Scientist suggests that human emotion can be transferred by technology that stimulates different parts of the hand without making physical contact with your body.

University of Sussex researchers have used a system called UltraHaptics to pinpoint areas of the hand that could be stimulated to evoke different emotions (image courtesy of SCHI Lab, University of Sussex)

A University of Sussex scientist and lecturer within the University's Department of Informatics, Dr Marianna Obrist, has pinpointed how next-generation technologies can stimulate different areas of the hand to convey feelings of, for example, happiness, sadness, excitement or fear.

For example, short, sharp bursts of air to the area around the thumb, index finger and middle part of the palm generate excitement, whereas sad feelings are created by slow and moderate stimulation of the outer palm and the area around the 'pinky' finger.

The findings, which will be presented tomorrow (Tuesday 21 April) at the CHI 2015 conference in South Korea, provide "huge potential" for new innovations in human communication, according to Dr Obrist.

Using the Ultrahaptics system - which creates sensations of touch through air to stimulate different parts of the hand - one group of participants in the study was asked to create patterns to describe the emotions evoked by five separate images: calm scenery with trees, white-water rafting, a graveyard, a car on fire, and a wall clock. The participants were able to manipulate the position, direction, frequency, intensity and duration of the stimulations.

A second group then selected the stimulations created by the first group that they felt best described the emotions evoked by the images. They chose the best two for each image, making a total of ten.

Finally, a third group experienced all ten selected stimulations while viewing each image in turn and rated how well each stimulation described the emotion evoked by each image.

The third group gave significantly higher ratings to stimulations when they were presented together with the image they were intended for, proving that the emotional meaning had been successfully communicated between the first and third groups.

Now Dr Obrist has been awarded £1 million by the European Research Council for a five-year project to expand the research into taste and smell, as well as touch.

The SenseX project will aim to provide a multisensory framework for inventors and innovators to design richer technological experiences.

Dr Obrist said: "Relatively soon, we may be able to realise truly compelling and multi-faceted media experiences, such as 9-dimensional TV, or computer games that evoke emotions through taste.

"Longer term, we will be exploring how multi-sensory experiences can benefit people with sensory impairments, including those that are widely neglected in Human-Computer Interaction research, such as a taste disorder."


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