Monday, April 12, 2010

The Senses: The Full Body Sense

We smell with our noses, look with our eyes, taste with our tongues, and hear with our ears. Those four senses are limited to small areas of our bodies.

Touch is different. We touch with our entire bodies. We can be comforted by a hug, tickled on the soles of our feet, and get cozy as we surround ourselves with blankets. Touch is a full body sense.

Touch is more important than you might think. Here's a student paper by Crystal Leonard that shows how important it is.

Are there gender differences when it comes to touch? Do you think women have more sensitive fingers then men? Turns out sensitivity isn't based on gender but on the size of the fingers. The smaller the fingers the denser the nerve cells. So those of us with big hands are less sensitive than people with dainty fingers.

Currently the word touch is less associated with the sense and more associated with our gadgets. We probably finger our phones more often than anything else (and if that sounds dirty to you... it sounds dirty to me as well). I don't know what's to come in the world of computer touch. The vision that isn't available to buy yet was shown off to the world in 2006. In the 2006 TED conference Jeff Han demonstrated what could be done with a large touchscreen that responds to multiple finger presses at a time. The video was a must watch for geeks everywhere. Fast Company did a lengthy write up on Jeff Han and his work called Can't Touch This.

There are problems with reaching out and touching our computer screen. Accessibility issues. Issues with having our arms block the screen. It may not be the best way to interact with computers but it certainly is an interesting one.

And no... I am not going to buy an iPad anytime soon despite all the hype.


Lene Andersen said...

And then there are the other accessibility issues. E.g., an iPhone requires more dexterity in your fingers than I have, so what happens to people with disabilities when everything becomes touch?

Lene Andersen said...

p.s. and that sounded dirty to me, too.

Janet said...

That was cool, I like the multi-point touch screen.

I hear you on the accessibility issues, but I think it's just exciting that there are so many different ways of interfacing with computers.

And who knows what will happen... I remember when voice was the next big thing. I never figured out how that would work in cubical land, and never took off in the office, but a lot of people use it and it keeps getting better.