Stanford University

Virtual interpersonal touch:
Expressing and recognizing emotions through haptic devices

Bailenson, J.N., Yee, N., Brave, S., Merget, D., & Koslow, D. (2007). Virtual interpersonal touch: Expressing and recognizing emotions through haptic devices. Human-Computer Interaction, 22 (3), 325-353.

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Abstract

This article examines the phenomenon of Virtual Interpersonal Touch (VIT), people touching one another via force-feedback haptic devices. As collaborative virtual environments become utilized more effectively, it is only natural that interactants will have the ability to touch one another. In the work presented here, we used relatively basic devices to begin to explore the expression of emotion through VIT. In Experiment 1, participants utilized a 2 DOF force-feedback joystick to express seven emotions. We examined various dimensions of the forces generated and subjective ratings of the difficulty of expressing those emotions. In Experiment 2, a separate group of participants attempted to recognize the recordings of emotions generated in Experiment 1. In Experiment 3, pairs of participants attempted to communicate the seven emotions using physical handshakes. Results indicated that humans were above chance when recognizing emotions via VIT but not as accurate as people expressing emotions through nonmediated handshakes. We discuss a theoretical framework for understanding emotions expressed through touch as well as the implications of the current findings for the utilization of VIT in human-computer interaction.

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