Christian Willemse


My name is Christian Willemse and I am working in the Human Media Interaction group as a PhD student on the topic of mediated social touch (started October 2013).

Prior to my PhD position, I obtained my Bachelor degree (2009) in Industrial Design at Eindhoven University of Technology. Since I became particularly interested in the focus on the user during a design process, I chose to enroll in the Human Technology Interaction Master program (also at Eindhoven University of Technology), in which technology and psychology are intertwined. I obtained my Master’s degree in 2013 with a thesis on the perception of multimodal feedback in bimanual tangible interaction (carried out at TNO, Soesterberg). Besides studying in Eindhoven, I did exchange programs at the National University of Singapore (School of Design and Environment, 2007) and the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden (KTH, Department of ICT, 2012).


My research is on the topic of Mediated Social Touch and the project is a collaboration between HMI and the Perceptual and Cognitive Systems group of TNO in Soesterberg.

During our daily interactions, we often hug someone, shake hands, or pat someone on the back. These kinds of social touches are really important for us as human beings, as physical interaction can have profound effects on our emotions, wellbeing, relationships, and behavior. Strangely enough, our current means of interacting with other people over a distance are often limited to our auditory and visual channels. The field of mediated touch evolves around the question what is necessary to develop technology that facilitates touching at a distance and that – more specifically – can induce social effects that are similar to real human touches. 

Within this research area, I am particularly focusing on the possibilities of simulating and mediating body heat; either as an element of a social touch, or as a communication channel in itself. We know from literature that manipulations of heat can have an effect on how you perceive someone else, on your pro-social behavior, and on the perceived distance between you and someone else. However, these temperature manipulations were done with for instance warm coffee and heat pads, or by changing the ambient temperature. I am interested in what happens when we mediate body temperature instead. The knowledge we will gain can eventually be applied in mediated touch and/or wearable devices and depending on the results, specific purposes or target groups could be addressed.