Can Haptic Feedback Technology Help Us Feel More?
As sociable humans, we constantly need presence, human touch, and emotional depth. VR and AR enthusiasts have supported the ability of these technologies to offer those qualities for years. So far, however, it has not yet affected everyday communications. In the meantime, Google Meet or Zoom works extremely well as an addition to in-person interactions but seem completely inappropriate as a replacement. So, where are the digital items to emotionally meet our needs?
Being Connected Is Not The Same As Feeling A Connection
COVID-19 gave us a chance for a major reset in our connection with technology. Before the pandemic damaged our ability to have in-person contacts, many discussions revolved around “viewing time.” Everyone had different ideas about the ideal time to spend watching screens and being online. This debate instantly became obsolete when the virus shut down most personal communications and forced us to relate virtually. Instead of the occasional luxury, internet connectivity has become a savior.
Because we need human connections to survive, this puts more pressure on digital tools to act as a connection source. Being connected is not the same as feeling a real connection. Being connected to the internet is technical while connecting online is emotional. At this time, many of us can easily connect with our family, friends, and colleagues online, but experience does not allow us to feel more connected to them.
The transmission of a form of human touch has long been a mission of digital platforms. While Facebook was still Thefacebook in 2004, an early feature was the averagely named and often ridiculed “Poke.” Facebook Poke, which remained a feature on the platform, has long been ridiculed for being a creepy form of flirtation or confused about the proper protocol. Although the feature never resonated among users, the basic feeling was clear.
We need something more profound than scrolling and looking. People who live online still need the feeling of connection and touch, and poking someone gives a certain aspect of touch. The continuous virtual conversation, without a feeling of touch, is hollow.
Why Do All Internet Interactions Seems The Same?
Touching generally involves a high level of comfort and intimacy with another person. For instance, warm physical communication often involves a handshake or a hug and a half-hug, while an acquaintance or a new individual would usually receive a handshake. Someone you don’t know at all, maybe on the other side of the room, would be visually noted without a touch. Although this pattern seems obvious, it becomes illustrative when we compare our offline interactions with online interactions. Whether it’s with a close friend, acquaintance, or stranger, every interaction feels the same. This lack of differentiation can be annoying and highlights the limitations of our current video conferencing activities.
People normally discuss whether we needed more or less technology. This narrative has turned to focus on why we need more technology. We need digital tools to be satisfied emotionally, especially since our internet communications are often our only communications during the day.
We need a greater feeling from our technology because we are experiencing a lack of human contact right in our lives. Given that almost all of our interactions are digital, we rightly expect more feeling and intimacy from these tools.