What does it mean to “be human”?
A popular tweet from #HIMSS15 noted, “Be human. People want to follow humans.” But what does this mean in today’s world? Some brands that retweeted this sentiment did not have any “@ replies” in their stream – meaning they were not engaging in conversations on Twitter.
The reality is many now accept bidirectional broadcasting as a normal form of communication; hence, “retweeting” and “favoriting” take place in lieu of actual conversations.
Technology has changed, and will continue to change, the way we relate to each other as humans.
Haptic Tech: A New Means of Communication
Paradigm shifts in communication came from text messaging, followed by social media and messaging apps. The next revolution may come from haptic technology – tactile feedback that recreates the sense of touch by applying forces, vibrations, or motions to the user.
Apple’s new “Taptic Engine” is said to markedly improve haptic tech, which in itself is not new. Apple utilizes haptics for its Watch, the keys on its new Macbooks, and is experimenting with more uses. According to Apple:
The Taptic Engine creates a discreet, sophisticated, and nuanced experience by engaging more of your senses. It also enables some entirely new, intimate ways for you to communicate with other Apple Watch wearers. You can get someone’s attention with a gentle tap. Or even send something as personal as your heartbeat.
Devices on our bodies change the way we interact with technology.
I think the Apple Watch with its Taptic Engine will change the way we communicate with each other and our bodies – more than how we actually consume digital content.
Its acceptance and popularity will be influenced by the user experiences developers create over the next few months, including creative use of haptics. I can see haptics combined with emojis or photos becoming popular. According to Wired, Apple’s haptic tech is a glimpse at the UI of the future:
“It could make interaction more realistic, or useful, or entertaining, or pleasant. That becomes the job of the user experience designer.” – Vincent Hayward, Haptics Pioneer
But haptic tech with push notifications can also get annoying and create some awkward social situations according to Nilay Patal for Verge (in the most comprehensive review of the Apple Watch.) Managing this new way of communication will become an art and a science.
Will haptics make tech more human?
Touch communicates distinct emotions such as anger, fear, happiness, sympathy, love, and gratitude.
BABYBE is the world’s first haptic teleprescence device. It transmits touch from a mother to a premature newborn that may be isolated in an incubator. With all the nuances of the mother’s heartbeat and chest movement, BABYBE serves to sustain the close physical relationship between parent and child during a critical time of bonding and development.
Can We Create New Senses for Humans?
One of the most fascinating 2015 Ted Talks is by David Eagleman who looks at how humans will enhance what they perceive through “sensory additions.”
What we’ve been thinking a lot about is sensory addition. For example, could we feed real-time data from the Internet directly into somebody’s brain, and can they develop a direct perceptual experience?
There’s really no end to the possibilities on the horizon for human expansion. Just imagine an astronaut being able to feel the overall health of the International Space Station, or, for that matter, having you feel the invisible states of your own health, like your blood sugar and the state of your microbiome, or having 360-degree vision or seeing in infrared or ultraviolet.
As we move into the future, we’re going to increasingly be able to choose our own peripheral devices. We no longer have to wait for Mother Nature’s sensory gifts on her timescales, but instead, like any good parent, she’s given us the tools that we need to go out and define our own trajectory. So the question now is, how do you want to go out and experience your universe?
What do you think? Will haptics be the next step in the evolution of communication?
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