Flex-N-Feel glove users can now enjoyintimate gestures like holding hands, touching, and giving hugs.Scientists have come up with a pair of interconnected gloves, where you can flex your fingers in one glove and actions are transferred to your remote partner dressed in the other. Led by Carman Neustaedter from Simon Fraser University in Canada, the tech developers designed the wearable technology that allows couples in long-distance relationships to literally stay in touch.
How Flex-N-Feel Support Long-distance Relationships?
In reference to Neustaedter, the new tech is all about feeling connected. Graduate student Samarth Singhal says that majority of long-distance couple greatly rely on video communication tools to maintain and support their relationship. However, these tools don’t fully meetthe need to touch and feel your partner. Flex-N-Feel provides long-distance couplesthe next level of presence and allows them to experience each other’s touch, she stated.
In reference to Neustaedter, their focus was to provide that connection to a kind of physical body. Though long-distance relationships are common today, the distance does not mean missing out on having a sharing space and physical presence, Neustaedter added. They are trying to create the best technology solutions for couples who can’t physically be together.
How Flex-N-Feel Works?
Flex-N-Feel consists of two gloves. One of them is known as ‘Flex’ glove, which accesses the bends of the finger and sends the interactions to the other glove called Feel. These signals are transmitted in the form of vibrotactile sensations.To capture the flex action, the technology uses the sensors that are attached to a micro-controller that measures each bend and transmits to the ‘feel’ glove though a WiFi module.
To enhance the feeling touch, the sensors are strategically placed on the palm side of the fingers. There is also a soft-switch on either glove to allow any partner to kick off the touch.
With this technology, couples can experience a sense of haptic stimulation when speaking with their remote partners over a Skype or phone call. They can make intimate gestures like holding hands, touching the face, or giving a hug.
Flex-N-Feel Designer Samarth Singhal
Samarth Singhal is the graduate designer behind Flex-N-Feel technology. Her motivation to work on the remote touch hardware came from her own personal experience and stories of her friends who were in long-distance relationships. In spring 2016, Singhal started a course on Tangible Computing at Alissa Antle’s. It’s at this time when she started working on Flex-N-Feel as a fun course project. Eventually, it evolved into her research thesis for the SIAT graduate program.
On Valentine’s Day 2017, Flex-N-Feel was widely covered by the media. Videos and articles were showcased on SFU news, Discovery Channel, CBC, CTV, Fastco Design, Dailyhive and many other technical blogs.
Flex-N-Feel Design Requirements
When designing Flex-N-Feel, there were certain requirement Singhal and her team took into account which includes:
- Mobility: They wanted their prototype to be able to be used by couples anywhere, on the go, and at any time of the day.This was to ensure that couple stay connected and feel in the presence of each other whenever they wanted.
- Direct Mapping: The designers wanted their prototype’s interactions in a way that they would convey their partner’s intention as a touch.In other words, their intention was to come up with a one-to-one mapping between a partner’s action and how it was relayed, instead abstracting the action.
- Flexibility: Couples interact differently when it come to touching. Their prototype was designed in such a way that it could support a variety of touches on different parts of the body.
- Privacy: Some touches betweencouples are meant to be private and unnoticeable by other people. With that in mind, they selected a sensory medium that would let distance-separated partners to experience touch in privacy and subtle manner.
Neustaedter also explained that they are working on other projects which are focused on shared experiences. They include virtual reality video conferencing system that allows one “see through the eyes” of a partner in a remote place. In another technology called “Be withMe”, users will be able to video-stream their remote partner’s activities to a long-distance partner indifferent location.
Technology advancement can in deed bring couples in long-distance relationships closer.Flex-N-Feel technology is one of themajor breakthroughsfor couples who stay apart.It’s a great way for partners to feel connected and in the presence of each other even when they are physically apart.Seemingly, this technology will also be embraced by couples who feel separated from their partners even if they meet at the end of each day.