Online shopping of the future: Virtual touch

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A team of researchers at the University of Geneva are currently working on an experiment system to add touch to the online shopping experience, allowing customers to gain a sense of what products, particularly clothing, would actually feel like.

Of course, at present that’s one of the main drawbacks of online shopping. If you’re particularly tactile and like to touch the materials before buying then it’s hard to know exactly what you’re getting when browsing through virtual shops.

Existing haptic technology (comes from the Greek word haptikos meaning ‘able to touch’ relies on the user interacting with a stylus or other tool. However, with the increase in home computing power, researchers are developing new techniques that are potentially much more realistic.

The project team hopes to integrate two haptic technologies. One device which can feel the kinesthetic forces acting on the simulated fabric, and tactile arrays placed on two fingertips to show the vibrotactile stimulation on the surface of the fabric.

“We are investigating how far it is possible to provide a user with a completely reliable sense of fabric through a virtual experience,” said project co-ordinator Nadia Magnenat-Thalmann of the University of Geneva. They will feel the force-feedback of the fabric when interacting with it.”

The project is due to complete in November next year. It sounds interesting but I don’t think it’ll spell the death of the high street just yet.

(Via Computer Active)

Andy Merrett