Technology puts ‘touch’ into long-distance relationships

Long-distance couples can share a walk, watch movies together, and even give each other a massage, using new technologies being developed in Carman Neustaedter’s Simon Fraser University lab.  It’s all about feeling connected.

Researchers have designed a pair of interconnected gloves called Flex-N-Feel. When fingers ‘flex’ in one glove, the actions are transmitted to a remote partner wearing the other. The glove’s tactile sensors allow the wearer to ‘feel’ the movements…

To capture the flex actions, the sensors are attached to a microcontroller. The sensors provide a value for each bend, and are transmitted to the ‘feel’ glove using a WiFi module…

The sensors are also placed strategically on the palm side of the fingers in order to better feel the touch. A soft-switch on both gloves also allows either partner to initiate the touch…

“Users can make intimate gestures such as touching the face, holding hands, and giving a hug,” says Neustaedter. “The act of bending or flexing one’s finger is a gentle and subtle way to mimic touch.”

Flex-N-Feel: Remote Touch over Distance from Connections Lab on Vimeo.

The gloves are currently a prototype and testing continues. While one set of gloves enables one-way remote touch between partners, Neustaedter says a second set could allow both to share touches at the same time….

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