Studies Investigate Tactile Information in VR

Two studies published today relate to the topic of tactile sensation in VR. One study, published in Scientific Reports – Nature, evaluates the relationship between touch and emotion.1 While it’s been known that emotions can affect touch processing within an individual, it’s not been understood how a toucher’s emotional expressions, such as anger, happiness, fear and sadness, can influence touch perception in the person being touched. Participants were presented with tactile stimulation appearing to originate from expressive characters in virtual reality and researchers measured participants’ somatosensory evoked potentials. “The findings show that not only does touch affect emotion, but also emotional expressions affect touch perception,” the researchers conclude.

In a second study researchers investigated the qualitative characteristics of dual-frequency compared to single-frequency vibrations and the perception of distance between the two types of vibrations in hands.2 There were differences between the two types of vibrations, suggesting how tactile information can be more realistically transferred in a VR setting. “These results are expected to provide a fundamental understanding about the perception of complex vibrations to enrich the transfer of information using vibrotactile stimuli,” the authors note.

Why it’s relevant: understanding sensory information is central for creating realistic environments in VR.

1. Ravaja N, Harjunen V, Ahmed I, Jacucci G, Spapé MM. Feeling Touched: Emotional Modulation of Somatosensory Potentials to Interpersonal Touch. Sci Rep. 2017;7:40504. doi: 10.1038/srep40504.
2. Hwang I, Seo J, Choi S. Perceptual Space of Superimposed Dual-Frequency Vibrations in the Hands. PLoS One. 2017;12(1):e0169570. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0169570.