Published: June 22, 2022

An arm with illustrations added of different emotions, symbolizing the emotional effect of touch. THING Lab

“EmotiTactor: Exploring How Designers Approach Emotional Robotic Touch,” authored by Ran Zhou, Harpreet Sareen, Yufei Zhang and Assistant Professor Daniel Leithinger, director of the THING Lab, won a Best Pictorial Honorable Mention award at the ACM SIGCHI Conference on Designing Interactive Systems (DIS '22). Zhou, an ATLAS PhD student who was also the publication co-chair for DIS'22, presented the research during the Multisensory Design session.

Prior psychology findings show humans can communicate distinct emotions solely through touch, and in this work, THING Lab researchers hypothesize that similar effects might also be applicable to robotic touch. Their findings uncover that the "otherness" of robotic touch broadens the design possibilities of emotional communication beyond mimicking interpersonal touch. Bringing designers into the exploration of emotional robotic touch, the researchers discuss their design decisions and reflect on their insights. To enable designers to easily generate and modify various types of affective touch for conveying emotions (e.g., anger, happiness, etc.), the researchers also developed a platform consisting of a robotic tactor interface and a software design tool. When conducting an elicitation study with 11 interaction designers, they discovered common patterns in their generated tactile sensations for each emotion.The researchers also illustrated the strategies, metaphors, and reactions that the designers deployed in the design process.


Ran Zhou, Harpreet Sareen, Yufei Zhang, and Daniel Leithinger. 2022. EmotiTactor: Exploring How Designers Approach Emotional Robotic Touch. In Designing Interactive Systems Conference (DIS '22). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 1330–1344. .pdf  (June 13-17, 2022—Virtual Event, Australia) [Best Pictorial Honorable Mention].