Social touch technology: extending the reach of social touch through haptic technology

Gijs Huisman

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research UT, graduation UT

103 Citations (Scopus)
1402 Downloads (Pure)


The skin not only protects the body from harm but, through receptors found in the skin, also enables the sense of touch. The sense of touch is used to obtain information about the world outside the body, for example, the shape and weight of a book or the texture of its cover. However, the sense of touch also has an important affective function that becomes clearly apparent in social touch interactions such as hugging someone or stroking someone’s back. Social touch plays a vital role in the physical, cognitive, and emotional development of infants, can have positive effects on a person’s well-being, can affect attitudes and behaviors towards the toucher, and is important in the communication of affect and emotions. Despite its importance in interpersonal communication social touch capabilities are lacking in current communication technology. Therefore, here, through a thorough discussion of a large body of literature, and several studies, a broad perspective on haptic technology for social touch interactions, referred to here as Social Touch Technology, is provided. The Tactile Sleeve for Social Touch (TaSST) was developed to enable research into mediated social touch by allowing two individuals to engage in social touch at a distance by touching their own forearm. Several explorative studies were conducted to investigate the TaSST's capabilities for mediated social touch. Research into a vibrotactile motion illusion demonstrated how relatively simple actuators can be used to apply socially relevant touches that are perceived similarly to actual social touches. In another study it was found that the mere observation of socially relevant touches results in responses similar to those to actual social touches. Finally, tactile and visual feedback from social touches were integrated into the design of an augmented reality touching virtual agent system. A study revealed that social touch by a virtual agent can change a person's perception of that agent's personality.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Twente
  • Heylen, Dirk K.J., Supervisor
Award date24 Feb 2017
Place of PublicationEnschede
Print ISBNs978-90-365-4309-5
Publication statusPublished - 24 Feb 2017


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