The haptic modality provides a new channel for interpersonal communication through technology by utilizing the sense of touch. In the development of novel haptic communication devices, it is essential to explore the potential users’ perceptions of such a communication channel. To this end, we conducted two explorative user studies with two early prototypes that demonstrated three different haptic feedback types: vibrotactile, thermal and squeeze feedback. We arranged focus groups and interviews to study the participants’ experiences, expectations and ideas of using these haptic technologies in interpersonal communication. The findings show, for example, that people prefer to use haptic communication mainly with people close to them. Haptics can be used for pragmatic purposes as well as in emotional communication, for example in mimicking touch between the communication partners. Squeezes were experienced as the most pleasant type of haptic feedback. Furthermore, the participants preferred receiving haptic stimuli to their hand area, through a mobile phone or a wristband-like device. We argue that using early prototypes in an early stage of research process in focus groups and interviews is especially useful for stimulating idea generation and discussions about expectations and experiences of haptic technologies.
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Tampere University of Technology
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