Communicating touch over distance: The “feelybean” (2011-12)

As part of my HCI-E MSc at UCL I, as part of a team of 5, designed and prototyped the “feelybean”: a device designed to facilitate couples in long distance relationships (LDR’s) to communicate a feeling of touch.

Our design brief was lifted from the 2012 CHI Student Design Competition, “Space, Place, Threshold: Considering the Experience of Home from Within and Without”. Following completion of a user-centred design process (UCD), we prototyped an interactive haptic device comprising of an array of coin vibration motors to physically communicate a feeling of touch, which we then evaluated using a Wizard-of-Oz setup in pairs.

Building the feelybean
The final prototype used in our evaluation

We evaluated the prototype with a Wizard of Oz methodology to simulate a long-distance video call. Using a cardboard wall between participants, to prevent them from seeing each other, one participant used the prototype to receive the tactile sensations and the other with the computer track pad to send the sensations in real-time.

Our paper was accepted and then subsequently presented at the CHI’12 conference in Austin, TX. You can read more about my experiences through the process here.