In our daily lives, we oftentimes encounter physical social interactions, ranging from a supporting pat on the back to holding hands, and from a formal handshake to a comforting hug. These kinds of touches carry a variety of meanings and can have profound social effects. We can show emotions and affect, form and maintain bonds with each other, and gain compliance, solely by means of a social touch. The TNO Tactile project aims at understanding how we can develop technology that simulates these kinds of social touches, and whether a touch induced by such technology can have social effects similar to its real-life equivalent. The envisioned technologies will be applied in mediated settings, in order to facilitate interpersonal physical contact over distance, but also in settings in which human beings interact with embodied agents such as social robots.
Another important aspect of the TNO Tactile project consists of the exchange of knowledge between the Human Media Interaction Group of the University of Twente and TNO (Soesterberg, Perceptual and Cognitive Systems). This exchange extends beyond the focus social touch, and involves all forms of tactile Human-Computer Interaction.