Sensory Perception & Interaction Research Group

University of British Columbia

Full citation: 
Cang XL, Israr A, MacLean KE. "When is a Haptic Message Like an Inside Joke? Digitally Mediated Emotive Communication Builds on Shared History." IEEE Transactions on Affective Computing. 2023 Feb 13;14(1):732-46.
Touch is valued for supporting emotional bonds. How can people access its warmth and nuance remotely, when tech-mediated proxies are so different from direct touch? We assessed the viability of haptic animations as affect-embedded tactile messages, highlighting findings which demonstrate how crucial relationship and shared history are in influencing these expressions in design and interpretation. To investigate haptic messaging, we first identified a set of 10 common emotion-imbued scenarios by surveying 201 people in distance relationships. Then, using a novel prototype of a wearable spatial vibrotactile display, 10 intimate dyads designed 167 haptic encodings matching the provided scenarios plus 17 user-defined “wildcards”. A week later, 21 individuals interpreted sentiment from encodings designed by themselves, a partner or a stranger. We examined design strategies, engagement, and compared human versus machine interpretation accuracy. A striking finding was participants’ facile use of shared context when it was available, building on “inside stories” to communicate subtle meanings with high effectiveness despite the unfamiliar medium, and doing so with evident fun. We analyze recognition accuracy and share insights on what it might take to make interpersonal haptic messaging work.
SPIN Authors: 
Year Published: