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Contact Expressions for Touching Technologies

By Kevin Mcgee and Annika Harup


Human-computer interfaces typically involve limited tactile input and audio/visual output, and even when the interface has been enhanced with speech, gesture, and haptics, this is often done to supplement (or compensate for) audio/visual output. Even the most interesting and elaborate work on force-feedback does not seem to be yet envisioning the full expressive potential of physical contact, in particular, the “contact expressions ” used routinely by people and animals in different contexts. People use contact expressions when other forms of communication are inappropriate or impossible, to supplement other forms of communication, or because the physical contact itself has significance. As robotic toys and embodied technological devices become smaller, more portable, more durable, and more commonplace, it is our belief that contact expressions will become an important area of interface design and will open up new areas of study for applied semiotics. This paper describes a “contact cushion ” we have built and used to explore some of the potential for contact expressive devices – and outlines a preliminary design taxonomy of basic contact expressions

Topics: Semiotics, Tactile interfaces, Haptics
Year: 2003
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