World first in sharing haptic information between people
NTT DOCOMO, the Embodied Media Project led by Professor Kouta Minamizawa at Keio University Graduate School of Media Design and the Haptics Lab led by Professor Yoshihiro Tanaka at Nagoya Institute of Technology, announced they have developed a technology, called FEEL TECHTM, that enables haptic information to be shared between people via a human-augmentation platform that DOCOMO unveiled in January 2022.
The FEEL TECH system, which DOCOMO believes is the world's first to share haptic information, comprises a device that detects a person's sensory state, a "driving" device that physically reproduces the same state in another person, and the human-augmentation platform that shares the information between devices connected to a network. Haptic information is quantified in terms of human-touch vibrations measured with a device similar to a piezoelectric sensor. The vibrations are reproduced with a driving device, such as a transducer that vibrates when electricity is applied. Haptic sensations and corresponding video images are shared from one person ("presenter") to another person ("target"). To achieve crucial synchronisation of the haptic and video data being shared, the platform is expected eventually to make full use of the ultra-low latency that will be offered in forthcoming 6G mobile networks.
The human-augmentation platform is also notable for its capacity to learn the physical characteristics of each target person and then adjust the presenter's haptic information (degree of strength, etc.) so that the target can perceive the information easily and clearly. Furthermore, the platform can record the presenter's sense of touch and share it with the target over time.
The platform can share haptic information between diverse people and device and across time. For example, an amateur craftsman could use the system to grasp the subtle techniques of a master craftsman, or individuals could use it to haptically recall sensations, etc. they experienced at a younger age.
The system will make it possible to share sensations that conventionally have been difficult, if not impossible, to convey through images, sound, text or words alone. Accordingly, the system is expected to find practical applications in fields that rely on human senses, such as medicine and art. Also, shoppers on e-commerce sites could use it to experience the subtle feel of clothing fabrics, among other rich experiences not possible using other advanced technologies such as 3D or augmented reality.
In view of the wide range of devices that could be interconnected via the human-augmentation platform, DOCOMO is now collaborating with diverse partners who offer value-added technologies suited to specific devices, which is expected to support the steady expansion of sharing existing and all-new types of sensory information.
For the new technology, Keio University developed the driving device and sensory information for sharing, Nagoya Institute of Technology developed the device that detects the sensory states of people and an algorithm that interprets different sensory characteristics, and DOCOMO integrated these various elements in its human-augmentation platform.
DOCOMO's vision for its human-augmentation platform includes achieving ubiquitous human bodies, sharing skills, sharing emotions, sharing five senses, and telepathy & telekinesis. In addition to having achieved the ubiquitous human bodies and sharing skills, DOCOMO has now realized sharing five senses.
Going forward, by further extending possibilities for transmitting emotions, the five senses, etc. through increasingly advanced technologies, DOCOMO hopes to contribute to greater wellness and better understanding of problems such as harassment in global society.