Affective Haptics for Enhanced XR

12 July 2021 Montreal, Canada
Worldhaptics 2021

About the Workshop

Our emotions play an important role in our interaction with the world. In real-life situations, they affect positively or negatively our lives. The replication of our world into virtual environments has been in human minds as early as 1935; the year Stanley G. Weinbaum published his short novel "Pygmalion Spectacles" that described the first head-mounted display (HMD). On one hand, we have never been closer to Weinbaum’s vision eighty-five years later. The technology progress related to XR headsets, from hardware and software perspectives, has been impressive and cutting edge. On the other hand, despite this technological advance, we are still far away from Weinbaum’s ultimate vision of an immersive world that not only includes all our five senses, but also provides us with qualia begotten of the virtual experience. Pick up a rose, smell its scent, feel the pricks of its thorns or the soft velvet of its petals on your finger. These sensations are what ground us in reality. Now, think about a rose in a virtual reality (VR) world. Despite a high-fidelity virtual rendering of the rose, your experience of a virtual rose would be completely different from that of a real one. Touching and smelling the rose would trigger emotions that would be hard to replicate in the virtual world. The experience would be different in a Mixed Reality (MR) or Augmented Reality (AR) environment depending whether the user is interacting with a real rose that is virtually augmented. Different haptic technologies are being used to add tangibility to virtual entities in these Extended Reality (XR) worlds enhancing, therefore, users’ immersion. Creating strong emotions remains one of the goals of XR. However, one obstacle that users face to reach some sort of emotional qualities is the lack of tangible interaction. This workshop focuses on the affective and emotional aspects of haptic technologies. It is not enough to only focus on the reproduction of the mechanical stimulation, it is also crucial to understand how the haptic technology triggers emotions within the XR worlds. Emotion classification remains a contested issue, as multiple models and several measures are available and they are rarely without any flaws. Speakers in this workshop would try to tackle the difficult task of understanding the complex map of emotions in touch, from basic affective feelings to more complex mental emotional construction, by detailing their approach and research to help provide haptic guidelines and considerations for designers about the affective dimensions for an effective haptic-XR interaction.

Why Join Us

  • If you are students, researchers, and academicians
  • Interest in affective touch, XR, and multimodal experience design


Mounia Ziat
Associate Professor
Bentley University
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Hiroyuki Shinoda
University of Tokyo
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Mohamad Eid
Assistant Professor
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David Parisi
Associate Professor
College of Charleston
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8:00 - 8:15

Social Networking

Meet us on Wonder
WHC Wonder platform

8:15 - 8:45

Understanding Affective Touch for a Better VR Experience

Boston, USA
Talk's summary

Touch is an emotional sense that plays an important role in our human-human interaction. For over a year the COVID pandemic has put this dynamic to a serious test, affecting people’s emotional and mental health, and bringing the human experience to a global museum where touch is forbidden. As engineers, we design haptic interfaces to create sensations, to mimic human touch through a machine. However, as accurate, realistic, or fascinating as these mechanical sensations can be, very often the emotional qualia are missing. Beyond the “wow” effect, haptic interfaces are not as widely used as head-mounted virtual displays. The progress of VR and AR technologies provide a great opportunity for haptic researchers to close the gap by providing them with a platform to explore the richness of human emotions in multimodal contexts. I will discuss affect and emotions within these contexts, taking a holistic approach to perception and to human interaction with technology.

8:50 - 9:20

Haptics to Support the Mind

Tokyo, Japan
Talk's summary

Haptics has a huge potential to support the human mind. I will talk about the potential in practical XR. The human mind and haptics are closely related in at least three aspects. The first is to create the feeling of someone’s existence to send nonverbal messages unreplaceable by other modalities. The “someone” sometimes means non-human living things, where the required reality depends on the purposes and the situations. The second is using haptics as a direct path to control the human affect, often without target reality. Pleasant sensations can improve health conditions and create new joy. Haptic signal design appealing to emotions is an emerging attractive challenge. The third is the modest tactile stimulus, where almost unconscious haptic stimulation is given continuously in an interactive system. This can offer a new possibility of haptics, which encourages the human mind indirectly. I will discuss these issues while introducing the related research and developments, including recent achievements of mid-air haptics.

9:20 - 9:35

Coffee Break

Meet us on Wonder
Coffee Break and Social Networking

9:35 - 10:05

Emotional Responses to Touching Emotional Face in a Virtual Environment

Abu Dhabi, UAE
Talk's summary

Affective Haptics is an emerging field, which focuses on the analysis, design, and evaluation of systems that can capture, process, or display emotions via the sense of touch. In this talk, a brief overview of the human affective haptic system is introduced. Then, I will provide a guided tour through some of the emerging applications in affective haptics in the realms of wearable technologies, virtual environment, and surface haptics. While building a vibrotactile alarm system, our results demonstrate that continuous tactile stimulation produces a pleasant yet arousing sleep-awake transition. In interpersonal communication in virtual environments, we show that the physical properties of an emotional face modulate the elicited emotions in a viewer and toucher. Finally, we will show how tactile feedback on a touchscreen device plays a significant role in modulating the user’s preference while touching a 2D image. I will finally discuss key findings, challenges, and provide perspectives for future work.

10:10 - 10:40

Mapping Touch through Affective Haptics

Charleston, USA
Talk's summary

In a sense, the field of haptics has always been concerned with affect: the use of touch technologies to elicit emotional responses goes back to the earliest instantiations of haptics in the 1970s. However, the emergence of affective haptics as a discrete subfield of haptics research, beginning in the early 2000s and expanding gradually thereafter, provided a new language for describing existing research into devices like shirts, vests, wristbands, and robots that aimed at creating, maintaining, and cementing affective bonds between remote communicative subjects. A central motivation for this research concerns the purported inadequacy of audiovisual media in conveying emotions: sight and sound on their own, from this perspective, will always fall short in their efforts to provide emotionally meaningful mediated experiences and connections, reaching a limit that cannot be surpassed without the addition of another sensory modality. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the absence of physical touch from intersubjective communication seemed to expose these limits; migrating from face-to-face communication to communication mediated by an audiovisual apparatus proved straining to our mental health, with media reports frequently documenting our unfulfilled need to touch and caress our distanced loved ones. Specific to affective haptics, this pandemic has been something of a missed opportunity: given the desire for affective tactile contact at a distance, physical distancing conditions could have occasioned a widespread uptake of affective haptics devices and applications. Instead, mediated communication remains heavily and almost exclusively reliant on the audiovisual, with considerations of haptics virtually non-existent. To critically evaluate this situation, I approach affective haptics in extended reality from the intersection of media theory, media history, and Science and Technology Studies (STS). Reviewing recent examples and applications of affective haptics, I offer some speculations on why such technologies have not been more widely adopted. Then, looking forward, I raise ethical concerns around the potential uptake of affective haptics, focusing on the experimental processes by which affective haptics captures, segments, and quantifies both touch and affect.

10:45 - 11:00

Closing Remarks

Discussion with the panelists
See you at the next Worldhaptics 2023 in Delft

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