Exploring Sensorial Design

  • February 2018 – June 2019: How interaction design can help to envision a tangible communication device for users that experience a physical gap?

  • September 2020 – … : How to tackle the impossibility of empathy through sensorial design and intervene in screen engagement of digital natives?

The personal touch ring is my experiment to capture attention to humanizing communication in a digital era. It is meant as a tool to imagine new ways and behaviors to empower the connection between two people and to close the long-distance gap through a personal touch.

In today’s hyper-connected world, texting is one of the main communication activities. However, the current texting experience can be very much improved by the empowerment of sensations and by unlocking the power of handwritten text and of haptic design. In contrary to face-to-face conversation, during texting, the emotions are not transmitted to the receiver. The typeface hides the emotions and the conversation starter becomes a regular notification that can get lost in all the other notifications that we receive during the day.

The project proposes the creation of a new personal device, a piece of jewelry that is enhanced with haptic technology, to allow human beings to have a different experience of each other’s messages, through the study of the long-distance relationship scenario. In this scenario, design, and especially interaction design has an inherent power to bring attention to how the way we interact with technology could affect our existence.

The piece of jewelry is a ring heart that consists of 4 main components: motion sensors, dual Bluetooth panel with the battery, mini led lights panel, and mechanics of haptic technology. A skin-like rubber material will cover the ring to enable flexibility and to enable sending and receiving touch through the device. After defining the device, I have designed the interactions. The main interaction is where you activate the ring with a unique pattern. Two people have to decide on a unique gesture which will be their personal code. this pattern can be a shape, a letter, anything that the users desire. When this pattern is applied on a surface, the ring will activate the writing mode and understand to whom you are sending the message. This unique pattern does not only create a personalized experience for the users but also it will enable users to send messages to different people with one ring. And lastly, the unique pattern is useful in terms of privacy, so that if someone finds your ring they won’t be able to send any message since they won’t be able to activate the writing mode.

To activate the writing mode, draw the unique pattern on any surface. Then start drawing or writing your message on the same surface. When you finish your message simply squeeze the ring to send it. The duration and the strength of the squeeze will be transferred to the receiver through their ring. So, touch will become the conversation starter for the receiver and the send button for the sender.

The ring will detect the most used communication platform between the users and will send the message through that platform. It will reconstruct a dynamic 2D representation of finger movements, and to send the receiver via a smartphone. This representation will be sent as a snapshot to the receiver. This means that the receiver will be able to see the whole movements and not just a static image. In addition, to enhance the connection for those who experience a physical gap, there will be a replay button of the received handwritten messages which will replay the message and the squeeze. This will allow the receiver to give more meaning to the message. There won’t be an additional mobile app but it will be integrated into any other preferred messaging platform.

Our project sets to experiment on how to bring touch and handwritten text back to our lives. So I am asking myself: What if we could have a personal accessory that would enable us to send handwritten messages to our loved ones through touch?

Nesli Hazal, A. 2019. Personal Touch: A design concept to empower connections. Estonian Academy of Arts, Interaction Design MA Degree Project — June, 2019. This project inspired me to pursue my PhD in interaction design. You can follow my journey here.

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