Oct 012013
 

Even though the internet and recent technology has made long-distance communication much easier, it is still tough to feel connected to a loved one through video chatting or social media. Tactilu is a bracelet that can make you feel a little bit closer with your significant other by communicating through touch.

Tactilu is designed by new media art group panGenerator in collaborations with Polish bureau of Cheil for ITAKA Foundation – Centre for Missing People.


Video 1. TACTILU – a bracelet for remote tactile communication

Functionality:

Tactilu is a bracelet that helps communicate “touch” through tactile/haptic technology. The bracelet is wirelessly connected through bluetooth and equipped with a touch sensor which converts taps and swipes into tactile motion felt on your partner’s bracelet. The feeling of touch is created with flexinol springs and QTC (quantum tunneling composite). Instead of using a small motor that buzzes, the springs are able to mimic a muscle-like behavior that more closely resembles touch. The bracelet is created using a Arduino Pro Mini with custom bluetooth module, QTC sensors, li-poly battery, and a 3D printed enclosure.

Wearability: 

An important aspect of wearable technology is that it needs to look fashionable. The Tactilu is currently pretty large and awkward, but I think it has the potential to be more fashionable. The device is currently in alpha mode – later iterations will be 50% slimmer and the temporary textile fastener will be replaced with casted polyurethane. With the next iterations being thinner, I believe it will look similar to other tech bracelets like the FitBit or FuelBand.

As we know, fashion is a form of communication. Wearing a device like the FuelBand communicates that the user is probably concerned about health and exercise. Wearing the Tactilu bracelet will show that you are in a relationship. In The Fashioned Body, Joanne Entwistle writes about how fashion can be signify certain gender traits. This bracelet may be unappealing to males because it may associated with “love” and “feminine” emotions.

Possibilities:

Tactilu is a part of a bigger research project that explores the usage of haptic/tactile technology in communication. I agree with the makers of the bracelet that the sense of touch is not well used as a form of communication through technology. This bracelet is targeted towards couples that are in a long-distance relationship, and I think it does a good job of replicating an organic feeling of “touch” that is capable of sending an intimate and meaningful message to your loved one.

A similar idea is shown in the “thumb kiss” feature in the Couple app. The app allows a couple to “kiss” wight heir fingers by touching the screen in the same place. When the fingers are “touching,” you receive a vibration through your phone. This vibration is not as refined as the touch from the flexion springs. Other projects that are exploring the use of haptic feedback are the Nokia ferromagnetic tattoos and the EMBRACE+ bracelet. Both of these bracelets utilize haptic feedback to keep you connected to your phone. The tattoo and bracelet responds with vibration when you receive a message, alert, or call.

The Tactilu is a good example of how haptic interfaces can be used as a medium of communication, and may help users move away from touch screen interfaces towards wearable tactile devices.

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