Imagine instant messaging with someone who tells you how nervous they were the first time they tried snowboarding. They may have felt butterflies in their stomach... and so will you, courtesy of the haptic butterfly strapped to your own belly!
The butterfly is just one component of iFeel_IM! ("I feel therefore I am"), a wearable haptic robot. Haptic technology interfaces with the user or users through the sense of touch, and iFeel_IM! uses sophisticated software to translate text emotions sent by one user into physical sensations felt by another.
iFeel_IM!, which looks somewhat like a parachute harness festooned with a cartoon heart, butterfly, and hands, was developed by Dzmitry Tsetserukou, an assistant professor at Toyohashi University of Technology. The custom software program it uses was written by his colleague Alena Neviarouskaya, a researcher at the University of Tokyo who happens to be Tsetserukou's wife.
The pair have been working on iFeel_IM! for the past five years and in its present iteration it can distinguish joy, fear, anger and sadness 9 times out of 10. Shame, guilt, disgust, interest and surprise can be determined accurately almost 80 percent of the time.
"We are steeped in computer-mediated communication -- SMS, e-mail, Twitter, Instant Messaging, 3-D virtual worlds -- but many people don't connect emotionally," explained Tsetserukou. "In a few years, this could be a mobile system integrated into a suit or jacket," he predicted. "It's not that far away."
Check out this video created by Tsetserukou and Neviarouskaya, and don't mind their computer-generated voices:
When asked what has driven Tsetserukou and Neviarouskaya to create iFeel_IM!, Tsetserukou stated "I am looking to create a deep immersive experience, not just a vibration in your shirt triggered by an SMS. Emotion is what give communication life."
What you're all asking, I'm guessing, is why Tsetserukou and Neviarouskaya didn't include some sort of haptic sexuality device - Tsetserukou was even asked about it after demonstrating iFeel_IM! at the first Augmented Human International Conference in Megeve, France. He replied that including a sexual component would be ultimately distracting and draw attention away from his main point: boosting the emotional quotient of virtual exchanges conducted by and between real people. (via 3yen and Physorg)